Hateful laws

Well, there’s a big push going on for an amendment to the federal hate crimes law. It would add sexual orientation, gender, and disability to the criteria for something to be considered a “hate crime.”

I have a huge problem with this sort of thing. In a way, it reminds me of the illegal alien problem.

In both cases, I don’t really see the need for new laws. There are plenty of existing laws on the books right now that cover the situations quite nicely. The problem is that they simply aren’t being enforced.

In a video going around right now put out by the Human Rights Campaign, they discuss three crime victims. The first was allegedly killed because he was gay. The second, allegedly for “identifying as transgender.” The third, also allegedly killed for being gay.

(I’m using weasel words because I don’t know the particulars of each case, not that I am casting aspersions on HRC’s claims.)

In each case, the actions taken against these three people — beaten and locked in the trunk of a car, head smashed in with a 25-lb. rock, tortured and left to die tied to a fence — were already crimes, and crimes that carry the highest penalties.

I recall back in the 2000 election, then-candidate Bush was attacked for vetoing a hate crimes law in Texas after the brutal murder of James Byrd (who was black) by three white men, who freely admitted they had targeted him on the basis of his race. I don’t recall Bush’s precise words, but they are best summed up by “what the hell else more could we do to them with this new law?” In the Byrd case, two of the killers were sentenced to death and the third — who testified against the other two — was given life in prison.

Likewise, on immigration, we have fine laws on the books already. There are ways to come to this country legally, both temporarily and permanently. There are ways to gain citizenship. And there are carefully-prescribed penalties for breaking those laws.

There is a remarkable overlap here, between those who call for new laws and those who routinely fight the enforcement of current laws. A Venn diagram of those who oppose the death penalty and campaign for “humane” treatment for prisoners and argue for leniency for criminals, and those who regularly call for new laws such as “hate crime” laws would be very enlightening.

I guess I’m just too simple-minded for these matters. I believe that if we have a law on the books, it ought to be enforced. If it’s a bad law, then it ought to be repealed.

And I just can’t see how problems that could be fixed by simply enforcing current laws will be made any better by passing new laws, especially since I have no faith that these laws will be enforced any more rigorously than the ones we have on the books already.

The only way I can see it making sense is if the issue is not the actual crimes being committed, but the feelings of the proponents. Passing a new law lets them feel all warm and fuzzy inside, like they’ve accomplished something worthwhile and meritorious, and actually fixed the problem.

It’s the celery of social action, though. It’s all empty calories. Or, if you like, it’s moralistic masturbation — self-gratifying but utterly non-productive, helped along with a healthy dose of fantasy.

It’s too bad the rest of us have to deal with the laundry afterWard.

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