I stopped making New Year’s resolutions years ago. I figured out that if one is for some reason unable to find the will of resolve on April 4 or June 22 (pick any date at random from the calendar), then trying to set the agenda gauged upon the first date of the calendar year will make no difference. I’ve learned to treat the concept in much the same manner as Geoffrey Rush’s explanation of the Pirate Code: The Code is more what you call guidelines, than actual rules.
So! With that preamble I will tell you that my only kinda-sorta resolution for this calendar year is to listen to less news. I should be more specific and say news broadcasts. They have become tiresome, predictable. There is no more suspense to it than the small town newspaper with its daily chronicle of who died and what burned down. This quasi-resolution of mine was not arrived at with malice aforethought. On the contrary it was forced upon me by the development of a sad and tired narrative that took shape before we even found ourselves a full week into 2017 AD.
If by some remote chance you may not have heard this sad tale I will relate it to you in an abbreviated form. From Chicago a story broke on Tuesday evening, locally, then on the national stage on Wednesday morning. Apparently a young man in his late teens or early twenties was accosted and then abducted by four other youths and then taken and held against his will at a west side apartment. The best accounts thus far have determined that the young man was held there for 24-48 hours. Now with all of the other mayhem that occurs on a daily basis in the city of Chicago this is an event that would have gone un or under reported. Just like most of the rest of the carnage. What made this incident extraordinary was that the abductors were brazen enough to torture and abuse their captive and stream the whole thing live on Facebook. Yes, there is video. I can’t tell you where to look, but if you have sufficient grasp of the English language, the manual dexterity to operate a keyboard or smartphone and are familiar with the use of search engines then I am certain you can find it.
Residing within reasonable proximity of the area I can assure you that this is hardly the worst thing to have happened in Chicago this week. The young man is free now and aside from some bruises, a mild scalping and humiliation he will be fine. At latest count there have been 9 killed and 29 wounded in Chicago in the past week. He’s certainly better off than they are. On a more hopeful note if one extrapolates these numbers through a 52 week period Chicago may find their homicides reduced by nearly half in 2017. If the numbers hold up they will fall far short of their 2016 mark of 780. Of course we’ll have to wait and see how things go when the weather warms up.
I know I promised to be brief, but there are a couple of other elements to this story that bear mentioning. The four abductors are black. The victim is white and developmentally disabled. Not that this should make any difference in the ideal of a colorblind society, but there it is. Facts are sometimes inconvenient. The facts of the race of the parties involved in this incident bear mention nonetheless.
If I were to hold to my non-resolution it is quite likely that I would discover that this story will fade from the national headlines in a week. Two at the most. I could, of course, be wrong about that, but I’ll say that it’s a fairly safe bet. It is also a fairly safe bet that if the races were reversed in this case we would all be treated to a full court press on this story from the national media. One could argue against this assertion, I suppose, but using recent history as a measure I’d say there is ample evidence to support it. To be sure this young man is still alive, so there is not an entirely accurate comparison in terms of the results, but in terms of the racial aspects a stark contrast becomes apparent. When a black youth is shot by a white cop (or cops, plural) there is a story that will be featured for weeks or longer. Even when the circumstances are cloudy. For that matter even when the cops are not white. In these cases it is material worthy of the lead story on the nightly newscasts, a la Ferguson, a la Charlotte, etc.
Just imagine if the roles had been reversed. What if a black youth had been abducted by four white teens and subjected to the same and had it streamed live over Facebook or any like social media? Why the indignation and moral outrage from our networks would be wall to wall, wouldn’t it? Go ahead. With a straight face try to deny it. For you see this would fit the desired narrative of the backwards, knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing, angry white male, bigot, homophobe, climate change denier, Trump voter that has been set loose upon our nation as a result of the recent election. There would be no escape from this story. It would permeate the networks, newspapers, social media. It would achieve the stated desires of the actual captors in this case. It would go viral.
For as sorry as all of this is these are not even the worst results related to the incident. As hard as that may be to imagine there is a more insidious element which has crept into this tale. There are now two classes of people who have emerged to introduce the term of hate crimes to the narrative. There are first those who are proponents of this absurd concept, who seeing a case that works in the reverse of the intended application, now rush to tag this case with the label to somehow legitimize the idea. Secondly there are those who disagree with the very idea of the definition. They now wish to discredit the concept by applying it to this incident in a transparent attempt to bait the hypocritical denial of those having defined the term to begin with. Both parties are wrong. The first set are wrong in that the idea of further defining what are already criminal acts under statute as being hate crimes is simply nonsensical on its face. The second set are wrong for accepting the premise at all, however it may be applied.
The very idea of the hate crime is a degradation to the victim. Although the intent may have been to assign a further degree of criminality corresponding to motive, this also serves to diminish the victim of the crime. Bestowing the added level of victimization to an aggrieved party suggests that somehow they are something less than deserving of the same protection under the law as anyone else. It suggests that as they are something less it is necessary to accord them an additional, special protection under the law as an accommodation of their inherent victim status, i.e. their inferiority as a citizen.
Those who have defined hate crimes and have enacted such legislation are incapable of seeing this. They are of a class of public policy makers who continually seek out and cultivate new classifications of victimhood. This builds a constituency that they can champion, thus further empowering themselves and their ideology. They know that this is what they are doing, but they dare not say it and so they present it as an added punitive measure against a biased motive. They have adhered to this script for so long that they have convinced themselves.
I am confident that even without the benefit of a law degree one might make a careful examination of criminal statutes in the state of Illinois and discover that there already exists a sufficient sanction against the acts of these four young people. The additional charge of a hate crime does not make them any more guilty of the act or more deserving of the penalty. If the mental faculties of the victim are to be weighed in the case at all that is the province of the jury’s discretion when rendering their judgement at trial. Likewise for racial motivation, should it exist. These factors not withstanding the fact remains that the crime was committed as defined by existing statute.
Are the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting last summer any more or less dead due to their sexual orientation? If a hatred of homosexuals was the sole motive of the shooter does that in any way at all alter the fact that he committed the crime of murder as defined under statute? The answer in both instances is a resounding no. Lets reach a little further back. Are the children who died in the daycare center of the Murrah building in 1995 any more or less dead because of Timothy McVeigh’s political motivations? Again that would be a no. I could go on with countless examples, but there is no need. Taking the lives of innocent people is a hateful act in and of itself. Further naming it as such does not change this.
Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy are not real. They are harmless fictions we indulge our children with. Hate crimes are also a fiction, but we are grown ups. Aren’t we?