This morning, September 28, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough said, “I have never understood hate crime legislation, but if it makes some people feel good so be it.” That is the standard shallow line of the conservatives – and they try to act so innocent. They raise their hands in that Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin pantomime and say “What? What’s the problem?” Scarborough’s attempt to discredit serious discussion by discounting serious people as promoting legislation so the promoters can ‘feel good’ is to treat serious issues with the flippancy that is characteristic of traditional rednecks. If shallow thinking makes them feel good then so be it. Scarborough is towing the party line – and he doesn’t even realize it.
The logic of folks opposed to hate crime legislation, applied to organized crime, would suggest that there should not be any crime for ‘conspiracy.’ No RICO Act! Would Scarborough say, “We already have laws against murder and prostitution, so why do we need the RICO Act?”
I don’t pretend to know or understand all of the facts in the Jena, Louisiana, case. But I think everyone agrees that there is a tree on the school grounds where white students generally congregate. Some black students sat under the tree. Some white students then hung a rope hanging noose on the tree. What would Scarborough say, “If it makes them feel good, so be it?” If there is no hate-crime legislation then what should the white boys have been charged with? (They were charged with nothing). Charge them with vandalism? That does not begin to speak to the seriousness of the offense. The hanging of the noose is nothing less than a terrorist threat by ideological bullies.
There is a small community about ten miles south of where I live. A few years back some of the local redneck criminals put a burning cross in the yard of a black family. Should they have been charged with vandalism and trespassing – crimes not equal to the actual nature of the offense?
The anti-hate crime advocates have only one valid point. We have too many laws! We cannot legislate every social behavior – but terrorist threats should have consequences beyond the misdemeanor of vandalism.