October 8, 2007
Murder is outlawed. Murder, since the death of Abel at the hands of Cain, has been the ultimate offense against our brother. Listen! God commands Cain. Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.
Cain murdered Abel. God passed judgment on the crime. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood.
It was murder. And it was punished by God. He told Cain, When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth. But Abel’s murder wasn’t a hate crime. At least according to modern law, it wasn’t a hate crime.
Cain told God, My punishment is more than I can bear. But he can be grateful he was only punished by God’s justice and not by modern American justice. Today’s punishment would have been so much worse…had it been a hate crime.
Hate crimes are crimes more dastardly than mere crime. They are special crimes defined by hate…that is, a certain kind of hate…depending on who you hate.
In the United States federal prosecution is possible for hate crimes committed on the basis of a person’s race, color, religion, or nation origin when engaging in a federally protected activity. To date, 45 states and the District of Columbia have statutes criminalizing various types of hate crimes, and 31 states and the District of Columbia have statutes creating a civil cause of action, in addition to the criminal penalty, for similar acts.
But that is not enough for some. As of October, 2007, congress is considering legislation that would add gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability to the list.
With all of this attention to the types of hate that might motivate crime, one would think that we have covered the worst of deeds with our modern legalese. One would think.
King David murdered Uriah the Hittite? Hate? Not under the new improved hate crimes law. His was the lesser, kinder kind of murder, killing a man to gain access to his beautiful wife.
What if O.J. Simpson actually confessed to the two brutal murders proved to be his deed by blood and DNA? He would finally be imprisoned to pay for the slaughter. But hate? Nope. These were the lesser, kinder kind of murders, killing a wife who wanted her freedom and a man who made the ultimate sacrifice to save her.
By definition, until now, murder has always been considered a hate crime. But soon, encoding into our law a special kind of crime defined as hate, we will have by exclusion reduced all other crimes, including murders, to something less than.
Creating one class of victim that is hurt by hate, to the exclusion of other victims who are merely annoyed by hate, we have fulfilled the Orwellian prophecy that predicted the reduction of equality into something other than. All animals are created equal…but some are more equal than others.
We have become too sophisticated to see the obvious. By legally reserving our deepest compassion for a limited set of victims, we have diminished our ability to protect one another in a civilized world where hate is called what it is regardless of who is hated.
Murder is final. It is no less painful because the law says it is the lesser, kinder murder.
The more we work to define what kinds of hate are worse than others, the more we all need to worry about being left behind in the group of people outside the circle of protection. There are no degrees of good hate and kinder murder. Hate is hate.