Friday, February 10, 2006

A Little Too Close To Home

It's always a bit disturbing to hear a story about your former middle school: 100 Swastikas Drawn On Walls at Sedgwick Middle School.

It really doesn't matter whether you want to label this as a "hate crime" or not. The more pressing question is why, and what does it mean?

When thinking about this vandalism in light of the Danish newspaper cartoons of Muhammad, it makes one realize how utterly worthless hate crime laws are. Why do we treat these two types of incidents differently? After all, in both of these cases there are going to be offended parties, offended Jews in my hometown of West Hartford, and offended Muslims throughout the Islamic world. The real issue of course is the intent of the offending parties. But is the difference between offensive Islamic cartoons and anti-Jewish graffiti really just a subjective view of intent? How are we to really know that the Danish cartoon wasn't motivated by the same sort of hatred that motivated the anti-Jewish graffiti?

The real issue is the fact that you have an exercise of free speech on one hand, versus an act of vandalism on the other. And from a legal point of view, that's all that should matter. But that doesn't mean that as a society we shouldn't wonder why there is such hatred in what is literally our backyard. I think it was Kanye West who said, "Racism still alive- they just be concealing it." It makes the lonely libertarian wonder whether all the public calls for tolerance and understanding just feed the fuel of underground hate.


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