An incident at a local college has stirred up controversy among those who picked up on something during the reporting. The incident apparently started with a student that has conservative views and a meeting of a group she was forming. It is said that someone took exception to her efforts and tried to hit her in the parking lot after the meeting. The video and the alleged victim’s statement don’t really align, also the reporting is only of the alleged victims statement without any information on the other party. It appears the person did sideswipe a car and the police will be investigating.
I have seen this much a thousand times, I have also seen it ignored just as many times as well. What caught my attention was the special care that the alleged victim, her father, and the police placed on the usage of the term “hate crime.” The linked story has changed since its first publishing, omitting those statements of the alleged victim and her father. It still states that the Seattle Police are investigating this as a hate crime though, an ordinance that is on the books in the city. As some can imagine the comment sections had a field day, with intolerant left and intolerant right warriors going after each other. Some saw hatred, some saw politics, and some saw something else altogether. I observed misinformation and an inroads to muddle protections, propaganda, and political playmaking. I witnessed from my own home a form of appropriation of hate.
My immediate reaction was the issue of the terms used in the story. Conservative, and hate crime were the main two points almost made emphatically. Where was the hate assigned to though? The more I read, the more evident it became, the alleged victim believed that it was her conservative views alone that brought this about, and it very well could be. Yet, that is not a hate crime, that is nowhere near what a hate crime is all about, and it was a ominous piece of reporting in my opinion. Only a handful of states have laws recognizing political affiliation as a qualifier, Washington is not one of them, but Seattle has political affiliation as a additional protected status.
There has always been a pushback from the more conservative areas of the populace to declare that hate laws should be deemed illegal themselves. The site Conservapedia refers to them as a liberal invention to try to criminalize politically incorrect attitudes, by making some offences seem morally worse than others. In recent years the number of right leaning and supporting organizations have been marked as hate groups, not alone, the left as well has picked up a few too. All too often in the reporting of these things, the reasoning behind the hate group designation was missed in the overall messaging about political affiliations. Groups were also expressing bias and behaviors against a constitutionally protected class, last time I checked, political affiliation alone is not one of them on a National level. The reasoning should be clear, the slippery slope in this case is built of glass and teflon, and painted with a coating of warm grease.
Certainly in today’s climate, politically and otherwise, there is an palpable animosity in the policies and actions of political parties. This level of tumult in our nation has not been seen by a few generations and the fear levels have grown with the populace. The difficulty settings on this era are set at high for many Americans, and patience is set on low. The thing that is also of note is the number of cases categorized as a hate crime has skyrocketed. Which brings me back to the incident at the college, the wording of the piece, and the reason why it is troubling. I remember the time when the term “hate crime” was enacted, what it meant and what it protected. Like any law, there is the letter of the law and the spirit of it. We are about to lose both, and to the detriment of the people it was meant to protect.
The incident at the college seemed as straightforward as any other. Sure, I can see why someone would think they would be challenged and disliked for their political beliefs. Without going into Webster’s or Freud’s works on it, I have witnessed and felt the “hatred” from both sides toward each other. Ad Hominem attacks, spin, elitism, propaganda, etc… Two friends of mine in real life are also mortal enemies behind their anonymous online avatars, each one almost calling out the other to face them in real life. It is all about politics, parties, toughness and being a real ‘Merican. I have watched this for years as they poach grief from one another, have watched the real life effects of this partnership too. We all belong to the same group of people that meet on a very regular basis, and they get along like good friends at this meeting and other events. I just smile and say nothing, because this is how it is, this is the truth of it all.
As the Jussie Smollett case is showing, an application of over-charging on counts and charges has left Chicago with its own problems designating the issue. A case that stands as a lowest level felony being charged with 16 counts. An overbearing prosecution led to the diminished results and eventually… none at all? Minor fine in the big picture, a major offence for a gay man to try to use this particular type of act is doubly insensitive, in my opinion. The addition of sexual orientation to the hate crimes list is filled with the deaths of many and the work of even more. With those memories and the spirit of the law still fresh in my mind and heart, it saddened me to hear Mr. Smollett’s case unwind. It also led me to this story and the reason it flared up as a red flag when I read it. The emotional logic can be understood in the political climate and social unease of today, the tangible logic of it though has already been worked through time and time again and we have not learned the lesson.
This recent incident at the college, using political affiliation as a sole point of purported hatred is aligned to destroy, not protect. The liberal habit of trying to legislate discomforts away has led to the nanny state, which has led to the helicopter parenting representation, which has led to micromanaging; All the way to emotional response… I should know, I am one, and yet I can see this much is true to a degree that pokes too close to my expected freedoms. In the past and even more so today, when the actions and laws of Government are unjust, people will do injustice. If you would like a big picture of it, then let me ask you how the war on drugs is going? How is that Federal standing of marijuana laws? How long was Prohibition again? Cases in point in the ability to enforce, versus the rewards or gains involved. The situations soon become untenable or simply too overwhelming to enforce. The groupthink being if everyone is doing it, they can’t lock everyone up right? It is more complex than that, but ironically to me, not much more complex.
The push back, the usage of the term to make the victim role appear greater and injury deeper. In the Seattle ordinance language it is up to the purported victim to state whether they believe their situation involved hate. Something which I must say is difficult for the best of Psychologists to discern and glean from their patients. Whatever the belief is though, the statement is made, it is a hate crime, it is a crime for just being… fill in the blank.
I have often thought back to those points in my life that represented a different outlook on things. The wonder of my youth, the dire-ness of my teens, the disgruntled drunkenness of my other decades. In those times and the spirit of them, the history I encompass, Some laws come with names attached to their acts, some with history. The Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. act. The Civil Rights act of 1968, which was later amended to include the Violence Against Women act of 1994, where gender based classes were added. The Violent Crime and Law Enforcement act of 1994 also protected from sentencing discrimination. The Church Arson act of 1996, and the above named Shepard and Byrd act have strengthened the law as it stood. The current spate of assaults on the spirit of the law has left the letter of it in doubt, an apt target for those opposed to it to whittle away at its spirit and intent.
If we are to include political beliefs as a stand alone pretense into a hate crime, then we have misinterpreted the spirit, and are mislead on the meaning. I have heard the right use terms of animosity when speaking of other races and religions, an almost jealous refrain of special rights for some but not others. The reactions when called out on bigoted, and racist statements, and actions is a point of contention to be sure. The need for protection, a protected class has been asked for and legislated, simply to fail. So this call for a hate crime on political beliefs alone is awash in bad judgement from the inception. Your political beliefs are not known unless you exercise free speech in order to express them. You are protected in the expression of those beliefs up and unto a certain, categorically law abiding point. Those beliefs may incite hatred, may incite disagreement, and may incite a laundry list of other plausible outcomes. It should be assigned with religion as an idealistic crime, because it is what you believe, not what you are. Assigning the moniker of hate to a belief is weaponizing of thought, a condemnation of others, and another form of diffusion.
When political affiliation is added as the sole designation of a hate crime, the entirety of the law as it stands will fold. The claims will, and have become, from the trivial, to the intense, a flashpoint of perceptions and an erosion of the overall purpose. The people and events that have shaped the acts and laws on hate crimes, and protecting the people who need the most protection are worthy of more reflection on this matter. If we are to practice an honest society, then we should apply the lessons from the past to the present. The continuous chipping away at what a hate crime means will erode the meaning of the term, and it will dilute our memories of the costs that we have already paid. It may be time to separate the intentions, preserve the spirit and strength of those acts of congress, and halt this appropriation of hate.