this space intentionally left blank

June 15, 2005

Filed under: politics»national»congress

No Apologies

It surprises me, frankly, that some politicians would even think of not signing onto the lynching apology resolution currently wandering through the Senate. Sure, it's a blatant political ploy, but it's one with no real political drawbacks and it doesn't even require you to be sincere about it. Refusing to sign is like handing ammunition to your competition, from either party, when the next election rolls around. Still, Steve Gilliard has the list of dissenters. It's no secret that ex-Klansman Trent Lott doesn't like black people very much, but what's with the Republicans from New Hampshire and Ohio? And for that matter, what's with Kent Conrad, D-ND? Que extraño. (Note that Steve's list isn't completely reliable--Americablog and the original source he quotes have updated with different counts, and the measure did pass unanimously. What's in question are people who did not co-sponsor the bill, even at the last minute.)

Of course, David Neiwert says what I and every other liberal policy enthusiast thought when we heard about this bill: wonder when they'll actually do something about the problem instead of making empty apologies? Every time meaningful hate crime legislation makes its way through Congress, the Republican leadership kills it because of homosexual protections offered (although it's perfectly possible that they have help from Democrats of the lowest variety--Zell Miller, perhaps).

Many people don't really understand hate crime legislation in the first place. There's a common argument made that we can't read the mind of the defendant, and even if we could that all crimes are hate crimes by definition. Although it's logically compelling, this argument is limited in scope, and breaks down when we consider the whole picture. In summary, the problem with hate crimes is that they are a form of terrorism--they're intimidation and threats aimed at keeping a population under control. That's what burning a cross, or tying someone to a fencepost, or lynching is meant to do: it's not just a simple murder, it's a lesson to all the other members of the target population. Keep your heads down and play along with our rules, it says, or you'll end up like that.

Maybe there's a good reason that this bill was passed with missing co-sponsors, and after hours with a secret vote. If so, I'd like to hear it. I'm sure a lot of other people would too. Since Congress won't create workable solutions to hate crimes of the present, the least they could offer is a united apology for the sins of the past.

Future - Present - Past