Quick Ramble: On Hate Crimes and Justice

Are you affected by hate crimes? Graffiti, vandalism, verbal abuse, threats of violence, physical assault?  Homophobia, transphobia, religious bigotry, racism, disability-related crime?  Do you know where to report it?  Stop hate.

Yes, stop hate.

In the USA as well – stop hate.  In a free country, where you have freedom of thought, freedom of speech, conscience and religion – stop hate.

One of the few things I disagree with some people on – including my own husband – is the topic of “hate crimes.”  More specifically, the tacking on of a more severe punishment because a crime has been deemed as one of hatred based on prejudice or intolerance toward a person of a specific race, religion, gender, or social group.  Are hate crimes worth punishing someone more over?

My simple answer is no.  My not-so simple answer is no, hate crimes are not worth punishing someone more over, because it borders on policing speech and even thought.  Punish the person for the crime, not for what they thought at the time. We need to live in a world where punishments reflect the crime, where criminals are criminals who happen to be prejudiced against someone else – not in a world where the prejudiced are made criminals.

I’ve only been to one courtroom in my entire life that I am aware of, and that was to serve on the jury of a trial where one man was being accused of entering into someone’s house and breaking a photo frame intentionally.  Our job as the jury was to figure out, based on the presentation by both lawyers and their witnesses, whether or not it could be proven that this man entered this other person’s house to intentionally break a photo frame, beyond reasonable doubt, meaning that it fell upon the prosecutor to prove that this guy did this crime – and to do it so well that we had no doubts about it whatsoever.  Later on we the jury found that there was reasonable doubt, and so the accused was found not guilty.

See, the problem with classifying a crime as a ‘hate crime’ is that it doesn’t work with the concept of ‘reasonable doubt’.  You can’t know all of someone’s thoughts at any given time, let alone prove it beyond reasonable doubt.  It’s just not possible to know what any one person is thinking.  You can’t just say, “Jane Doe was thinking hateful thoughts about wheelchair-bound people at the time she pushed her disabled co-worker down a flight of stairs, so she needs to be punished for a hate crime, not just an assault on a disabled person” and expect it to fly, beyond reasonable doubt.  Sure, Jane Doe is a douche for thinking the way she does about disabled people, but it’s her right to think these things.

It’s not reasonable or just to lengthen or shorten a sentence based on the thought the person had at the time.  If you go the opposite direction, lessening someone’s sentence because they were emotional or distraught at the time, it’s the same.  If Jane Doe pushed the wheelchair-bound co-worker down the stairs because she was upset that the co-worker put her husband in the hospital, that does not excuse the fact that Jane Doe committed a crime.  It does not excuse the fact that Jane Doe took the law into her own hands.  Jane Doe should still get charged for her crime, and that sentence should be the same across the board – whether she did it out of hatred, emotion, or just because she felt like it, Jane Doe committed a crime and the punishment should fit the crime.

Don’t take my words as saying that it’s okay to commit a crime against people that you hate.  I hate racism, religious bigotry, sexism, and plenty of other prejudices that are apparent in the world.  I’m not trying to defend the actions that criminals take – just their thoughts.  Just their right to free thought and free speech.  It’s a pretty dark and ugly example, but you can’t arrest a pedophile for just being a pedophile, he has to take some sort of illegal action before he can be arrested for doing wrong.

Last quick example before I go make my morning coffee: Say you made a tray of cupcakes for St. Patty’s day, and covered them in green frosting.  While you’re in the other room, your son, who you know absolutely hates the color green, decides to eat all of the cupcakes.  When you discover that your child has eaten all of the green cupcakes, what do you do? Do you punish the child for eating all of the cupcakes, or do you punish him more harshly because he ate all of the green cupcakes?


Are Politics Evidence of Humanity’s Continuing Evolution?

As I sit here after reading article after article written by people of different political opinions, I wonder to myself, “How can these people BELIEVE this stuff?” It simply does not make sense to me, not a bit. Yet somehow, others are able to make sense of it, and stand behind those differing opinions. This opens up the question to me, is there some sort of physical cause for this?

It turns out that there may be.

A study done by the University College of London found that people who identified themselves as liberals generally had a larger anterior cingulate cortex – a region near the front of the brain that is involved in decision making, empathy, rational cognitive functions, and emotion.

By contrast, those who identified as conservatives had larger amygdala-structures that are linked with the processing and memory of emotional reactions, fear and anxiety.

The researchers suggest that liberals tend to be better at managing conflicting information, while conservatives are thought to be better at recognizing threats, adding that such personality traits are linked with specific brain structure.

In 2010, researchers from the University of California San Diego and from Harvard University identified a “liberal gene,” which has been linked with a personality type driven to seek out new experiences.

I found this information startling, and interesting all the same. The fact that it could be possible that our political inclinations are tied in with the way that our brain is formed is very interesting to me, and leads me to wonder whether or not this could be considered a sign of the continuing evolution of Homo sapiens.

Looking through history, you may notice that things tend to get more conservative the further you go back: slavery has been abolished, women have been given the right to vote, and now homosexuals are being given the right to marry – all forward-thinking and liberal ideas at the time of their occurring.

My simple thought is this: Maybe it’s not a mistake. Maybe Mother Nature is trimming the fat by making us more tolerant. It’s definitely in our best interests as a species, right? Survival of the fittest? We’re evolving to become more tolerant and accepting of new experiences, because that is the best way for our species to adapt, grow, survive, and thrive.

Perhaps it’s just hopeful thinking, but one maybe one day, racists will cease to exist. Maybe one day, people will be able to live and let live. Until then, I guess we’ll just have to sit back and enjoy watching the antics of the GOP.

Interesting Stuff to Read or Watch


End of the World

With every generation, there’s always the folks who think that this is it. This is the last generation that will ever be.  These are the end times. These are the days that will cause the destruction of humankind altogether.  This is the end of the world.

I remember watching a documentary about a cult focused on the end of the world around 2008, and thought it was pretty interesting.  In wandering around the internet, I’ve stumbled upon it once again.

It’s definitely worth a watch, if only for the “Holy Crap” factor.  I’ll link it below (Click the “Read More” link to see all of the parts).

Continue reading

PantheaCon, Z. Budapest, and Nickelback

Every once in a while I try to keep up on news from a Pagan perspective.  I can’t say that I’m incredibly well-informed when it comes to these topics, but I do with what I come across.  Lately I’ve been frequenting The Wild Hunt and Pantheon over on Patheos, as well as dropping in once in a while to hear from Pagan Centered Podcast.  Usually this keeps me pretty up to date on the biggest issues (at least), which helps me feel a bit like I’m involved in a Pagan community, even if I’m just reading once in a while.

Among all the good that I have experienced, I’ve also witnessed a fair amount of drama.  There’s plenty of drama in any given group of people, which is something that I’m sure most of us have grown to accept in our experiences.  Apparently there’s been a giant helping of drama recently, surrounding a ritual at PantheaCon that was lead by Z. Budapest, who is famous for her anti-man, pro-natural-born-women-only opinion and her writings on feminist spirituality and Dianic Wicca, as well as the Susan B. Anthony Coven, which became the first feminist, women-only, witches’ coven. [Wikipedia]

From what I understand, transgender inclusion has been an issue in the past, which is part of the reason why so many are so upset this time around.

What I feel is “in error” is not the holding of a Dianic ritual for cis-women only. It is not that this ritual occurred at Pantheacon. It was that — after the events, pain, and discussions of the last year, with so many of us doing our level best to learn from one another — we had this ritual led by a public figure who has made hateful comments which she had not retracted, or even apologized for. That this was her only offering to the Pantheacon gathering this year made it feel like even more of a slap in the face to me.

T. Thorn Coyle

I live all the way down in Australia, so I can’t say that I was there, but from the things I have read, from the heartfelt and hurting messages from both sides of the coin, I can definitely say that this one is a difficult subject.  But from the things I have read, I’ve come to the conclusion that both sides are right and wrong simultaneously, and there is just no simple way to wave a wand and make it disappear.

I feel like a lot of this could have been avoided though, based on what I’ve read.  I mean, if you’ve got someone that is famous for excluding males and transsexual women from their beliefs and practices leading a ritual, people need to understand that the ritual will likely only be open to naturally born women.

However, if you’re going to have an event that prides itself on unity in diversity, you might want to reconsider the idea of inviting someone who seems to embrace the complete opposite to be a headline in your convention.

In trying to keep this as simple as I can (for the sake of myself mostly), I think that while religious freedom does play a part in this, the problem revolves instead around the mindsets of those in the community.

It’s easy to forget that people are diverse, especially when you are in a group and feeling comfortable.

It’s like having a close friend. You do lots of stuff together, you stick up for each other, like a lot of the same TV shows,  and generally feel close to this person.  ….And then they give you a Nickelback CD for your birthday.

You could be a bit shocked, maybe offended that your friend has given you such an awful CD, maybe start telling them how there are way better bands out there and offer them your CD case for a week…

But if your friend has been wearing a Nickelback t-shirt for the last few years, you already know that this person likes Nickelback, so expecting them to give you a good CD to listen to is likely out of the question.

So just as many of us believe that there is no one true path, be it musical or spiritual, we must also accept that some of these paths are very different to ours.

Z. Budapest’s path takes her down a very exclusive journey, focusing on the divine feminine and excluding all else.  If that is not the path you wish to choose for yourself, then choose another.  Just as you might feel that Christians have it all wrong, you have the option to walk a different direction and follow the one path that is right for you. (And don’t listen to Nickelback!)

While we might not agree with the mindset behind Zsuzsanna’s path, some seem to forget that they have the choice not to walk it.  If you feel like it’s excluding a certain group, then take your support elsewhere, to someone you feel deserves it more.  

Let me be very clear: I believe all humans should be treated equally, no matter what sex/gender, race, religion, sexuality, etc.  I also believe that people should be allowed to practice their beliefs.  And I also feel like the ritual in question had a delicious gooey center that would have been helpful to many of the women who attended (or didn’t).

But people… Don’t expect a tiger to change his stripes just because he’s in a sea of leopards. There will always be someone who disagrees with you, whether you like it or not, and if that someone has always been outwardly in disagreement with what you believe, then don’t expect them to suddenly change their mind just because people are jumping down their throats about it.  We don’t have to agree with it, but we must accept that some people listen to Nickelback.