Not much happening in local politics lately. The Chamber did a candidate training session yesterday, featuring some local experts, and locals who are not-so-expert. JMac writes it up, but for what it’s worth, we think it was more of a nonpartisan affair than you might think, given the sponsoring body. We wonder if some of our commenters like James Garland and Andy Rusk were in attendance, and if they were there, what they thought.
Anyway, as we said, not much happening in local politics lately, so you’ll forgive us for addressing a couple of non-local issues.
The first thing is the case of the possibly obscene bumper sticker. The ABH writes it up today, and the woman involved had a letter in Flagpole on Wednesday. As all of you guys know, we are vociferous and sometimes strident in our defense of your First Amendment rights, and this is no different. However, the issue is not the officer, it’s the law. If you presume, as we do, that personal politics were involved to at least some extent in the stop, then the problem is much less with the officer who made the stop, and much more with the vaguely written law that allowed him to do so. No matter how you feel, we’re going to speculate that, at this point, both the officer concerned and his department wish that he had taken a pass on this particular motorist.
The other thing that we wanted to say is directed at our fellow liberals. Guys, please, please, puh-leeze do not get too worked up about this thing. It’s going to court, she’s got a lawyer, and we’re 99.9% convinced that this case is going to be resolved the correct way. Save the histrionics for the issues that really matter, like the policy that our government is pushing on our communities. And before you get all up in arms, we’ll say this. Widespread government censorship of political speech is a major problem. One cop with too much time on his hands, who may or may not have an agenda, and certainly does have an inadequate understanding of the law is not a problem. It’s why we have a Bill of Rights, and it’s why we have a court system. This is blogbait, designed to get the more histrionic folks on both sides of the ideological spectrum pissed off. Don’t take the bait, mmmkay? Also, it’s not even a particularly well-conceived or funny bumpersticker, not that creativity should count.
Having said all that, we do admit that there’s something about this whole situation that smacks of a slippery slope and the thought police slavering hungrily at the bottom.
And hey, speaking of the thought police, hate crime legislation passed the State Senate. Here’s another one of those things where the liberals are going to get pissed at us, or at least at me; I’m not sure how DiDDY feels about hate crimes legislation, but I’m sure he’ll weigh in.
Folks, hate crimes legislation is bad policy. You’ve got rights in this country; some, like your right to practice whatever religion you want to practice, are Consitutionally defined and absolute. Others, like your right to privacy, are there but vague.
Friends, you have the right to hate whoever you want to hate, and the government has no right to call you on it. Don’t expect me, as an individual to sanction your hatred, and don’t expect society to sanction your hatred. Hate is wrong, it’s the root of a lot of our problems – politically, economically, societally, and spiritually. But, you can hate whoever you want, for whatever reason you want. It’s wrong, it sucks, but it isn’t illegal – and if you make it illegal, you’re inviting the thought police into your living room and mine. I’m not cool with that, and I hope you aren’t either.
Hate crimes laws are a great example of what happens when good intent is bad practice. To prove a hate crime in court is difficult at best, because you can’t prove what a person was thinking when they committed a crime.
Another problem with hate crimes is that laws that impose a stricter penalty based on some vague concept of “hate” inevitably does some victims a disservice. Is the loss of a four-year-old to crossfire from a white-on-white murder attempt any less of a loss to society than a four-year-old who gets killed out of racial hatred? Will the child’s parents grieve any less because – gosh, at least it wasn’t a hate crime? Either way, civilized society has suffered another blow, and we’ve got another dead kid.
Finally, you’ve got to question the purpose of hate crimes legislation. Is it supposed to be a deterrent? Is the possibility of a few extra years in jail going to keep another incident like the Matthew Sheperd case from happening? Or are hate crimes laws supposed to be a way to keep the really bad sociopaths locked up for awhile longer? If that’s the case, and that’s what I’ve heard often as a justification, then aren’t we saying that some homicides are more justifiable than others? (Obviously there are mitigating circumstances, like self-defense, which do make some murders more justifiable than others. Race, religion, or sexual orientation should not be one of those mitigating factors.)
I would also mention that, as a sop to my liberal friends, if hate crimes laws are to be seriously enforced, then someone had best take a look at the government. The death penalty has been unfairly applied on a racial basis for decades, making the governments of Texas and Georgia among the country’s most egregious hate crimes offenders.
Hatred, bigotry, intolerance – it’s perhaps the worst aspect of human nature. But you have to change these things socially and culturally, not legislatively. Unjustified murder is unjustified murder, and if it’s proven in court, should be punished to the full extent of the law, regardless of race, creed, color, or sexual orientation.