Ira Smolensky


Hateful hate crimes and the people who hate them


       In last weekÕs Zephyr, Springfield commentator Rich Miller took Governor Blagojevich to task for the current Hate Crimes Commission fiasco.  While I canÕt offer a defense for the governor, I do think we can learn a few things from the unpleasantness.

       First, it is difficult to define just who preaches hate or, for that matter, what constitutes hate. 

       Several years ago I had occasion to watch and/or listen to some dozen or so tape recordings of Minister Louis Farrakhan speaking to a variety of audiences.  Based on those tapes, I would have to say that no one in his or her right mind would knowingly appoint one of FarrakhanÕs close acolytes to an anti-hate crime commission with broad representation and expect it to run harmoniously. 

       There are numerous Muslims around, including Black Muslims, who admirably reflect the values of tolerance and mutual respect.  As such, they clearly are fit to pursue the mission of reducing hate crimes in our state.  Farrakhan, however, does not convey such an image.  He is particularly tough on Jews.  According to Farrakhan, Judaism is a Ōgutter religionĶ and todayÕs Jews are usurpers who have purloined their identity from GodÕs true chosen people. 

       Thus, in appointing Sister Claudette Marie Muhammad, Director of Protocol for FarrakhanÕs Nation of Islam, Governor Blagojevich was cruisinÕ for a bruisinÕ—which he definitely got. 

       On the other hand, I donÕt see Farrakhan as a promoter of hate crimes.  When his speeches are examined as a whole, FarrakhanÕs purpose emerges as an attempt to foster Black unity rather than to foment violence against Jews or any other group.  In short, I donÕt think Farrakhan means to be a hate-mongerer.  Yet I can also see why many people interpret his criticism of Jews as too close to hateful for comfort.  The trouble is that Ōhate,Ķ unfortunately, is not a self-explanatory term. 

       Since hate is difficult to define, it may well be that anti-hate crime commissions are prone to such confusion.  Add to this the reality that such commissions can be manipulated for nefarious ends, and that they lack any real power to effect worthwhile achievements, and you come up with the second lesson to be learned from this mess, to wit, that the Illinois Hate Crimes Commission is a waste of time and money and should be abolished forthwith, as should other symbolic, feel good governmental bodies put into place merely to maintain the status quo.       

       And while we are abolishing things, we just might want to take it a step further and abolish hate crimes altogether.  Last week, when three college students were arrested for the outbreak of church arsons in Alabama, journalists and public officials alike seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief.  The offenders, it seems, were not on a vendetta of hate.  They were just having a bit of fun that got out of hand.

       But I donÕt feel relieved.  To me it would be just as bogus to have my place of worship burned by a merry prankster as it is by a rabid church despising secular inhumanist.  Either way, you end up with charred remains.  Likewise, I would not find it at all comforting if someone tortures me to death out of sadistic pleasure but tells me that he has nothing against me (or my ethnic group) personally.  What IÕm worried about is the pain, suffering, and expiration from this earth before I have gotten to try every sexual position in the Kama Sutra.  I could care less about the motivation of my assailant.

       Think of it this way.  Maybe there should be a penalty for hating the person against whom you offend.  But, personally, I hate the thought of my sadistic killer getting a lighter sentence for being good natured.