When the only motive is hate
A synagogue attacked on the eve of a Sabbath; a Sikh man shot to death amidst slogans denouncing Osama bin Laden; an African American terrorized simply for the color of her skin. Not a robbery gone wrong or a murder to avenge a long-held grudge. Attacks like these transpire not as a simple expression of man's insanity, but actually embody the inhumanity of hate. When hate leads to crime--and hate is the only motivation--it seems clear that such a crime is particularly severe.
Race, color, religion or national origin as the motivating basis of a crime is accepted as a "hate crime" by both the Democratic and Republican parties. This is not a polarizing issue. But the proposed inclusion of sexual orientation, in addition to gender, gender identity or disability to the criteria has unleashed a firestorm.
Rep. John Boehner said last week that he opposed the addition of sexual orientation as a criteria for hate crime legislation---not because he opposed hate crime legislation--but because it includes sexual orientation. Now, reasonable people can argue as to the shortcomings of this defense bill in which the hate crime language was added on to ensure passage.
One could argue that all crimes, regardless of motivation, should be treated equally harshly. The quick counter is that even now, murder is treated differently depending on whether it was premeditated or not. One could argue that the federal government should not classify crimes, leaving it to states as before. And one could differ as to whether the bill does infringe upon freedom of speech. I disagree with some of these contentions, but believe that a conversation should be had.
But rather than taking this intellectual tack, many on the far right, believe what Boehner regrettably stated, that while religion, sex, gender and race are "immutable," sexual preference is not. Besides the fact that religion is very much a choice, and therefore not immutable, this canard that people "choose" their sexuality is the argument that crushes the credibility of the opposition.
It is unfathomable that one would "choose" an identity that virtually guarantees fulsome scorn, repudiation and even hate. And as a pediatric urologist, I am very aware of congenital conditions that alter the hormonal milieu in a developing fetus that signficantly affect gender identity and sexuality. I am no expert on human sexuality, and it likely develops from a multitude of effects--the nature vs. nurture argument will continue--but I believe very much that this is a nature phoenomenon likely determined very early in the developing fetus.
To Matthew Shepard--horribly killed for no other reason than his homosexuality; for Balbir Singh Lodhi--shot to death for his adherence to the Sikh faith and his turban and beard; and James Byrd--dragged to death and decapitated by Aryan Brotherhood terrorists--their cruel deaths give meaning to the term "hate crime." These crimes inspire the call for action on hate crime legislation, and we need look no further to witness what pure hate can wreak.
Views expressed here are the personal views of Dr. Aseem Shukla, and do not necessarily represent those of the University of Minnesota or Hindu American Foundation.
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