Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | October 21, 2009

Degrees Of Offense

The congress has been grappling with new “hate crimes” legislation as of late.  I have always thought the concept of “hate crimes” is nonsensical. If you kill someone in anger, it is a fairly safe bet that you “hated” the person. And even if you didn’t hate him, dead is dead. Right?

If you chain a black person off the back of a pickup truck and drag him down a gravel road (and it is abhorrent to me to even see these words falling off my fingers), you might be doing this because you hate him, or you hate black people in general; or maybe in your demented mind you think that this is some sort of recreational fun.  Physically, the object of your torture suffers greatly and maybe even dies at your hand.  If you do the same thing with a middle-aged, balding Dutchman, you might also think that this is some sort of recreational fun.  Or maybe you hate this guy because he is Dutch, or middle-aged, or balding.  My point is this: Who knows?  Who cares?  The physical result of your actions is the same in both cases regardless of what was going through your mind at the time.

A crime is a crime, and punishment should be meted out in proportion to the seriousness of the crime, not the motivation for the crime.  To elevate the status of one crime because of motivation is to diminish the status of another crime of the same sort solely because it does not meet a particular “burden” of motivation.  For victims, this is not equal justice under the law; this does not represent an America of equal protection for all her citizens.  Instead, this is special protection for some, lesser protection for others.

The conclusion of many, me included, is that “hate crimes” legislation is not aimed at punishing crime; it is aimed at limiting speech.  It seems clear that this legislation—perhaps more aptly named “hate speech” legislation—will be used to single out, censure, and eventually punish those who dare to think differently from the prevailing group-think and speak differently from the prevailing and politically correct group-speak.

Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of our democratic republic.  We should all be opposed to any governmental limitation of free speech.  Freedom of speech runs contrary to the norms of history and the present-day norms of most countries of the world.  Without free speech, we become China, or Russia, or any other run-of-the-mill nation.  Freedom of speech is what makes America different; it is the bold experiment still underway as it has been for more than 230 years now.

Freedom of speech is as American as it gets. “Hate crimes” legislation is just about as un-American as it gets.

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