A column about history, culture, policy, and things in between.
In 1866 Fyodor Dostoevsky published his immortal work Crime and Punishment.
Today one wishes for a novelist of equal caliber to rebut the chorus-line of State politicians and social activists who are steamed up over the issue of hate-motivated crime. Now even the National Education Association is getting on board that train.
Every summer at its annual convention, the NEA publishes a list of resolutions. Just last month from its convention in Philadelphia came the following:
“The Association believes that Federal, State, and local governments and community groups must oppose and eliminate hate motivated violence”.
Why are they all so concerned about hate-motivated violence as opposed to any other kind? And what makes them think that government at ANY level can “eliminate” the darker recesses of the human soul?
The answer is simple - there are political objectives to be pursued that go beyond the matter of crime and punishment. Getting tougher punishments for certain “motives” means having to determine what “thoughts” are driving those motives. And if proposed hate crime legislation passes, it means that government can punish certain kinds of “thoughts” more harshly than others.
That is a very slippery slope indeed.
The result of crime is personal damage such as physical injury, financial loss, emotional trauma, etc. The level of a victim’s suffering is in no way related to or apportioned by the MOTIVATION of the perpetrator.
Does a man’s family suffer more because its husband and father is killed over greed as opposed to some discernable reason of “hate”? Is an assault victim more seriously injured or disabled because the assailant’s motivation may have been one this as opposed to that?
Crime is crime and violence is violence. In this equation are perps, victims and the criminal justice system. That system has a more than full time job punishing BEHAVIOR and ACTIONS. Expecting it to assume the task of somehow divining and demonstrating people’s “motivations” is as impossible as it is dangerous.
Let’s let cops be cops, prosecutors be prosecutors, and judges be judges. Let’s let them deal with BEHAVIOR and enforce the laws that are already in place. Let’s not make them try and discern and prove the motivations of criminals.
Public safety and an orderly society are the objectives.
Not thought control.