'Hate Crimes' and 'Occupy' Protests
The three nanny-state wards featured in this online report from Reuters (3/3/2012) exemplify the "Occupy" movement and the infectious attitude of entitlement that grips so many of our contemporaries. Actions by these thugs in Oakland present yet one more anecdote in a growing collage of reasons why the movement is corrupt and devoid of any principle except that which immediately gratifies its adherents.
The acts of these individuals are heinous. They should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law in accordance with their criminal actions. Do not, however, label their actions as so-called "hate crimes."
Hate crime legislation, while it sounds lofty in its intent, is diabolical in its potential application. Who, though, at first mention of the idea, would not support additional criminal sanction against those committing crimes targeted at individuals of minority groups? It does sound like the right thing to do in cases such as these, right?
However, when the emotional connection toward punishing prejudices subsides, and logical examination of the idea is allowed to formulate, it becomes clear that criminal punishment of "motivational intent" is a dangerous slippery slope. Most might agree that violent crimes are not motivated normally by benevolent feelings or altruistic thoughts, but are formulated from darker emotions and selfish intent. However, the effect of those emotions, when acted upon, is the same. A crime is committed. An innocent person has lost property, has suffered injury, or has lost his life.
When we ascribe additional penalty to a crime based upon the motivation of the perpetrator, the result of his crime is no less severe. When a cross is burned on the lawn of a black family's home, it is an act of vandalism, criminal trespass, and arson. Depending on other physical aspects of the crime, a case could be made for application of other charges. There are ample opportunities to prosecute the crime and achieve a robust sentencing for the guilty. That those who committed the act were racist does not affect the severity of the damage to the home of the victims or their emotional distress.
What hate crime legislation will do is create a dynamic of proper versus improper thought, as determined by government. It is not a feat of intellectual gymnastics to deduce that a government that can punish criminals for wrong thinking can eventually punish law-abiding citizens for the same.
George Orwell in his seminal work 1984 is the go-to author for examination into the possibilities that exist when government is allowed to control not just the means of production, but the means of thought itself. This idea is not lost on the statist. Indeed, those who seek a dominating role of government in the lives of citizens recognize the politics of group identity as a means to an end. By segregating persons into racial, ethnic, and even gender and sexual preference groups, the statist can incrementally erase the identity of the individual, while guiding the individual to cede personal responsibility for thought to the group. Hence, the burden of introspection, of critical thinking, and of personal accountability is lifted. The Group now carries the burden for achieving whatever the goal may be. With time, the Group and government become indistinguishable.
American statesman Benjamin Franklin once said, "Without Freedom of thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such thing as public Liberty, without Freedom of speech." Here, Franklin clearly makes the symbiotic connection between freedom of thought (or conscience) and political freedom. It should not require a venerated statesman to make such a connection. The bond between free thought and liberty should be intuitive to all who might consider an opinion on the subject.
Hate crime legislation is a child of the modern political correctness movement. It is a movement that has been wildly successful in marginalizing First-Amendment free speech, infecting every facet of social interaction. Pastors in historically conservative Protestant churches are scaling back their time-honored messages of original sin and redemption. Military chaplains are receiving politicized orders to alter their choices of words used in invocations. Public schools have virtually eradicated all mention of God during school hours or at sporting or extracurricular events. Talk radio shows, a citadel of the American conservative movement, are under a myriad of attacks from liberals in Congress and allied political organizations. They seek to destroy the message offered over the airwaves and the messengers through boycotts of program sponsors and censoring legislation disguised under harmless monikers like "Fairness Doctrine" and "localism." This is nonetheless a thin veneer in what is an unabashed effort to squelch alternative points of view -- especially those that pose a threat to the prevailing acceptable doctrine of the political elite.
We should not be surprised at the "Occupy" actions in the aforementioned Reuters report. But again, the focus should be on the criminal act itself, the prosecution of the perpetrators of that crime, and the attainment of justice for the victims and society at large. We as a society must not allow notions of bigotry or any thought processes by criminal perpetrators to cloud our judgment on the disposition of these matters. To do so is to deny intellectual honesty. For this is a first step toward a time when the wrong political, cultural, or religious thought will land us in a cold, dark cell block -- even if no real crime has been committed.
Do not think it cannot happen. The gulags of Soviet Russia, the millions of dead in Communist China's Cultural Revolution, and the killing fields of Pol Pot's Cambodia will beg to differ.