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Crime and Prejudice

May 4, 2009

I don’t get the hate law. The rationale behind the law seems to be that some crimes are driven by a motive that in itself is worthy of punishment and needs to be covered by an extra law in addition to the crime. So when a person murders another person it is not enough to prosecute the killer for murder. But he (or she, to be very PC here) also has to be prosecuted for ‘hate’ should there be evidence that the murder has been committed because of hatred in the hate-law sense. This strikes the French Cowboy more as an artificial splitting of the crime from the motive than covering a heretofore left unpunished ‘hate crime’. You would expect that murders (or assaults in general) are often motivated by hatred. It used to be enough to kill a person to be found guilty of a crime. Now having (had) hatred for the person you have killed (or the group that person belonged to) is an extra crime to be punished separately.

Which brings up many questions. One, most obviously, how do you know whether someone has hate-law hatred for another person? Is it enough for the assailant to be of a different “race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability” than the victim to suspect the crime to be motivated by hate-law hatred? Does that mean that from now on the smart bar brawler will engage only persons who have the same “race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability” as he (or she!) does into fist fights? In case he gets caught he will be found guilty of the punch-up (to use the legal term) but at least he can count on a light sentence because he’s not guilty of having broken the hate law. (Doesn’t this somehow run counter to the goal of more inter- racial, religious etc etc socialising? We will look more like the cowards the Attorney General accused us of being.)

Another question is whether a hate law doesn’t imply that murdering someone without being motivated by hatred is less of a crime than murdering someone motivated by hatred. Imagine person A murders person B (no offense to the A’s) and the judges find A guilty of the murder but not of having ‘hated’ B in the hate-law sense. Will A be punished less severely than if the judges had found that A hated B, implying that killing someone you don’t hate in the hate-law sense is less of a crime than killing someone you hate? Furthermore, if the judges find A hating B in the hate-law sense but not harming B, will A be punished for infringing the hate law? Of course not!, you say, Don’t be absurd! Well, the French Cowboy is wondering because it strikes me as odd that you are allowed to hate a person while you don’t harm her in a criminal way, but once you harm the person criminally your hatred against her is punishable per se.

Oh well, the French Cowboy is not a jurist. But we are talking about hatred and prejudices here and I dare say that you don’t have to be a legal expert in order to have a hunch of what sounds like a reasonable law and what doesn’t in such an everyday-life area. We’re not talking about a detail law concerning some opaque financial market instrument that only the experts can understand. The French Cowboy’s bet is that, outside of complicated specialists’ areas, if you come up with a law that sounds absurd to ‘the man on the street’ – you know, the type of whom the society the law is supposed to be applied in is composed of – then you should go back to the drawing board. And while the USA is not made of French Cowboys, I doubt that the average American sees much more sense in a hate law than do I.

A last question: What if A killed B because of greed? Shouldn’t there also be a ‘greed law’? Ah, but of course! Obama’s new tax system is the greed law!

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