I have long been confounded by the notion of "hate crimes."
According to the FBI website:
A hate crime is a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias. For the purposes of collecting statistics, Congress has defined a hate crime as a "criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation." Hate itself is not a crime—and the FBI is mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties.
To date, the definitions and penalties for hate crimes have varied widely from state to state; so about ten years ago, Sen. Edward Kennedy introduced a bill to establish a uniform national standard. It's called the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and the legislation has languished in limbo ever since. Attorney General Eric Holder recently testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee to plead for swift passage.
When pressed, Holder was forced to concede that the incidence of reported hate crimes has been on the decline for a few years now, and further that state and local courts are already doing a fine job of prosecuting them. But apparently, the AG's office isn't busy enough; they need new worlds to conquer.
This is a very, very bad idea, methinks. The mere concept of a hate crime designation is ill-conceived on two fronts:
First, semantics: Has anyone ever committed a murder, or burned down a house, as an act of love? Ummm...no. Violent crimes are acts of hate, period. No matter the perpetrator, the victim, or the motive. There can never be a righteous reason, to do the wrong thing.
Second, it sets up two classes of society, a protected class an an unprotected one. In other words, it might be considered a lesser crime for you to kill me, than if I killed you. It means that one man's life is more important, more precious, than another.
And why would that be? Is it because he possessed a particular extraordinary virtue? Did he perform some outstanding service to his fellow man? Or perhaps he shot down twelve enemy fighter jets and saved the city of Boston from certain doom? Nope. His life is considered more precious -- and his death doubly tragic -- because he preferred the company of men.
Could it be that a court might prosecute my murderer less zealously than another, if I should be slain merely by a terrorist or a jealous husband, and the other guy by a racist or a homophobe? Seems to me, this a blatant violation of the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law. And wait, isn't this the same legal doctrine that (theoretically) forces us to accept gay marriage?
And speaking of the Constitution: We live in a country where everyone has the First Amendment right to free speech. No matter how naive, or evil, or yes, even hateful that message might be. So my spoken or written words are sacred (good news for a writer!), but my private thoughts might be subject to condemnation by a court of law?
Oh, the irony: those who fight so fervently to defend their "rights," often have no regard for the rights of anyone else. They don't really want to be equal to the rest of us, they want to be better. Which wouldn't be so bad, except for the over-reaching (and transparent) pretense to the contrary.
Oops, did I say that? Silly me. Liberals aren't required to be consistent in their sacred principles, and everyone knows it. Heterosexual Christian men need not apply. What was I thinking?
Let's suppose that every perpetrator of a hate crime could be lynched on the spot, to serve as an example to those who might follow. Would this punishment cause bigots to repent of their bigotry? Would racists suddenly start embracing the people they formerly despised? I doubt it. Sure, they might be more careful to self-censor their words in public. But their hearts remain unchanged.
Would it be better to punish these people for their bias, or to convert them? I choose the latter. But just as with religion, such people can only be genuinely converted by gentle persuasion. Not by answering hate with more hate.
If ol' Ted & Co. have their way, we can be punished, not for what we do -- or for what we say -- but for what we think. This is positively frightening. Last time I checked, political dissent was legal in this country. What will they come up with next, to exact their vengeance upon those who disagree?
If nothing else, this crusade will give the Democrats yet another reason to demonize conservatives for their vile "intolerance" when they vote thumbs down on this awful piece of legislation. The cops are coming, and they want to punish you for disagreeing with the official party line.
God help us all.