Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hateful Hypocrisy

When you boil it down to its most basic terms, the function of government is to protect its citizenry. It does this in two basic ways: maintaining a fighting force that deters other governments and groups from attacking, and regulating the behavior of people that could harm other people (such as murder or reckless driving.)

Beyond this function, some would say that government has little more to do. People should be free and if what they are doing is not impacting others harmfully, then they should be allowed to do what they want. Unfortunately, most people try to use government to impose their thinking on others. They make laws telling people how they should live, what they can drink, and how much money they can make and in extreme cases what they are allowed to believe. These people also tend to be the types who favor using taxation to not just keep the government running, but also take money away from those deemed less deserving and redistribute it around.

All this leads to the craziest use of government to impose ideology: hate crime. In our culture today, it is not evil enough that someone would commit murder. In fact, we shy away from deeming anything evil at all. Dr. Phil and others have even tried to “justify” the killings at Fort Hood this week by diagnosing the shooter as mentally ill. The one exception to this rule is when the powers that be decide that the killing was done in hate. (Is there a lot of killing today that is not motivated by hate?) The thought is, if someone commits murder they should be punished; if they commit murder motivated by “hate” they should be punished harder.

Of course, what society deems “hate” is highly subjective. White on black crime is hate. Straight on gay crime is hate. Muslim extremist crime on innocent bystanders is not. That has to be mental illness and probably our whole culture’s fault—because there is no such thing as an evil or hateful Muslim. Whatever you do, don’t call such crimes terrorist acts. That in and of itself would constitute religious discrimination.

The fact is that racists, sexists and yes, often religious fundamentalists are full of hate. However, the government’s job is to protect people from their hate preemptively where possible and punish their actions where it isn’t—not to be some sort of thought police.

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