The best way to fight hate

Nat French,

Opinion Editor, nfrench@smu.edu

The U.S. House of Representatives recently
expanded the federal definition of hate crimes
to include attacks based on a victim's sexual
orientation, gender identity, or disability.
If the bill becomes law, it will become easier
to prosecute hate crimes, which carry
more serious penalties than similar,
non-hate-motivated assaults

Conservatives have raised two major objections
to the bill.
Philosophically, they argue that it's a violation
of the First Amendment.
If a pastor says that homosexuality is against
God's teachings and then one of his congregants
goes out and commits a hate crime,
conservatives fear the pastor may be
liable to prosecution. This is probably over-dramatic,
but it is not out of the realm of possibility.

Democrats would be wise to address
these worries and put some sort
of constitutional safeguards in the legislation.

On a more practical note, conservatives accuse
the Democrats of playing politics
with the troops by tacking this contentious
piece of social policy on a defense-spending bill
that gives much-needed equipment and
much-deserved benefits to the men and women
of our armed forces.

Republicans must either vote for
the hate crimes expansion or
make our soldiers go without.

Republicans have a point, although they're not
in a position to accuse anyone of playing politics
with national security. To use the safety of
our soldiers for political purposes is shameful.

Both parties should stop using military appropriations
bills as a means of jamming unrelated
social policy down their opponents' throats.

Republicans' concerns about First Amendment
rights are legitimate, if overblown.
Their frustration at the means with which
 Democrats have passed this bill is deserved.

But there's a more fundamental reason why
the hate crimes legislation shouldn't become law.

Violent crimes are awful. They're awful whether
they're caused by greed, by rage, by jealousy,
or by hate. They're awful whether the defendant
is black or white, gay or straight,
man or woman. They're just plain awful.

I'm saddened by the prevalence of homophobia
in our society. I have gay friends, gay teachers,
and gay family members. If one of them were to be
killed for their sexual orientation,
I would be confused and angry. I wouldn't understand
how anyone could do something so destructive.
I would feel no less grief if they were
killed in a mugging or a random shooting.

By its very nature, crime is senseless. To say that
one murder is worse than another is to deny
the crime's essential evil. No matter the cause,
we should treat every violent act for what
it is: an expression of the worst in humanity.
Violent crimes are always hate crimes.
Those who perpetrate them should be sent
to jail and we should do everything
in our power to stop the spread of violence.

Democrats' support of the hate crimes legislation
comes from a real desire to make the world
better for our gay brothers and sisters.
They hope to curb the scourge
of hate-motivated violence.

But the best way to do that isn't
to make harsher prison terms for hate crimes.
By the time sentences are passed,
lives have already been torn apart.

We must instead tear prejudice out by the roots.
That means giving full legal equality,
including the right to marry, to all Americans.
It means welcoming the multitude of
lifestyles and cultures that exist in
this world and recognizing that diversity
is what makes our country so great.

It means teaching a new generation
to be more open-minded
and accepting than its parents.

I look forward to the day when fear
and hatred no longer plague this country.
But toughening the penalties on hate crimes
won't get us there any sooner.

Ignorance is better fought with ideas
than with guns and jail cells.

Nathaniel French is a junior theater studies major.
He can be reached
for comment at nfrench@smu.edu.

Link here


No comments:

Post a Comment