Saturday, January 3, 2009

Then They Came for Me

The local news anchor just called a racial slur a hate crime.

Here's what happened: Some moron wrote the slur on a piece of paper and taped it to the door of the NAACP chapter at the University of Alabama. This has been reported for days, but no threat has ever been mentioned. Obviously, the perpetrator hates black people, but calling them a name is not a crime. Unless the note contained some sort of threat, and this has yet to be reported, this is not a "hate crime."


Well, it is a big deal if a news anchor, not quoting anybody, but speaking on her own behalf, refers to a racial slur as a crime. I am free to hate anyone and anything I like, and it is not a crime. I can even call you a name if I want to, and regardless of the indignity you suffer, I have in no way violated your rights.

Do I think it is good that a person used a racial slur? Absolutely not. It is immoral and boorish. It is a sin. It is not, however, illegal, and therefore not a crime.

People who act this way toward their fellow humans should be ostracized from society. But they should not be jailed. Free speech is still a protected right.

I could look the other way. After all, who wants to face the arrows surely to be incurred from defending a redneck reprobate? But the words of the German minister Martin Niemoller cry out against me:

“First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”

If some uneducated college student wants to call black people horrible names, and that's all he does, but we want to get it into our minds that it is a "hate crime," what further words might we decide are crimes?

Suppose I fail to bow at the altar of tolerance? Shall I be cast into the lion's den? While I certainly respect the right of others to hold contrary opinions to my own, my personal religious convictions are exclusionist, and so some would call them "intolerant." If I say, "It is my way or the highway (to hell)," am I committing a hate crime because I've offended all other religions?

If I offend you, I am sorry, but to hold to my religion's precepts, I must claim it is exclusionary. I make every effort to be at peace with all people, but there is inevitably the debater who will paint me with the broad brush of Falwellianism simply if I say that I am a Christian.

This is my cross to bear, and I do it without complaint. But I shall not sit down and shut up just because Pat Robertson says things in the name of Christ that are stupid.
You can jail me if you will, or you can shoot me in the head. It is the only thing that will still my tongue.

Perhaps I have forgotten to take my Lithium. This is America, after all. Such things would never happen here. We are the apex of civilization.

Tell that to Dr. Bonhoeffer and 6 million Jews, Neville.

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