I for one have become infuriated at some things going on both here in Georgia and across the nation. And I’m an easy-going guy with a mighty long fuse. I can imagine how those of a more volatile temperament are feeling.
Our problem? It’s the total insanity of mayors and governors, silent Republicans, looters getting off scot free, and – hate to say it – Georgia legislators. It appears that the Georgia General Assembly just might codify their crazy belief that a thought is a crime. Say that to yourself: “A thought is a crime.” There is absolutely nothing more un-American.
But who cares whether or not a particular law matches up with fundamental American principles? What matters is being cool, going along and being a part of the gang. No need to stand with just three other states. Georgia looks foolish not having a hate crime law. Even if we’re being copy-cats hopping on a bandwagon, we gotta have a hate crime law. You know how other parts of the nation view us Southerners. We gotta change that.
Of course there is a context for this cowardice. I’m persuaded that many Republicans are simply afraid to take a stand. They don’t want to be called “racist.” If America is a racist nation, how did a black man get elected and re-elected president? How did Oprah become a billionaire? Is it possible that 13% of the nation’s population could have sent Obama to the White House or Oprah to billionaire status? No, Obama was president and Oprah is a privileged black because of the 87% white population, or at least enough of that 87% to swing an election and to support a television show hosted by a black celebrity.
Imagine a Harry Truman, a Churchill, a Reagan, a Cicero being fearful of social unrest and making bad law to appease it. S.I. Hayakawa, president of San Francisco State University, stood atop an automobile in 1968 and with megaphone in hand read the riot act to hundreds of unruly protesting students. Appreciative Californians sent the tough Japanese-American college president to the U.S. Senate. It was a different California then.
House Bill 426, authored by Republican state Rep. Chuck Efstration, seeks to toughen sentencing for crimes committed “because of actual or perceived” hatred of another, based on “race, color, religion, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability, or physical disability.”
Ponder “actual or perceived.” Consider whether or not a courtroom witness or a legislator could ever testify or legislate intelligently and fairly on the basis of perceptions. An act of murder is one thing; the mind of the murderer is another. This may be why state Rep. Ginny Ehrhart asserted that the bill would lead to an “Orwellian legal system,” adding, “There is no place for thought police in a free society.”
Rep. Ed Setzler opposes the bill as well. Recently Setzler stated, “When substance and due process reign, we can see how vile and pernicious hate crime law actually is.” Setzler is right. Laden with subjectivity, hate crime laws seek to punish one for what he was thinking. What does it matter what a murderer was thinking? Why or how is a victim’s color, religion, or sexual orientation significant? Hate crime law argues that it is worse to murder some citizens than others. Any way you cut it, hate crime laws indicate we are not all equal before the law.
And why does the Chamber of Commerce just love hate crime legislation? As far back as 2014 the Georgia Chamber drew a line in the sand and stood on the side that opposed religious liberty bills. The Chamber was wrong about religious liberty and is wrong about hate crime laws. But when did Georgia’s corporate giants like Coca-Cola, Delta, and Home Depot ever side with the bulk of their customers – conservative middle class folks? They’re afraid of the LGBQT lobby.
Ignoring millions of people of good will, the Chamber apparently embraces “systemic racism.” It’s “the system,” meaning all of us. And hate crime laws will absolve all of us? As one who has wept over and worked against racial injustice since I was 18, I totally resent and despise this view.
Infuriated? Yes. And tired of the rocks, bricks, bottles, desecrated monuments, and the elected officials who excuse it all. Tired of unending, empty apologies from those too gutless to stick to what they really believe. Tired of Black Lives Matter yelling “Uncle Tom” to blacks who agree with me. Tired of disrespect for cops.
Hate crime laws are a feel good measure. They stain the very concept of equality before the law.