Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Terrorism vs. Hate Crimes

With the alleged Time Square car bomber apprehended with good ole fashioned police work, some on the conservative side (Sen. John McCain (R) AZ), were upset by the fact the suspect, a U.S. citizen, was read his Miranda rights. This brings up the question again, are 'terrorists' special?  Are they war criminals should they be handled as such?  Or are they just thugs and gangs that should be dealt with like anyone else, by our police and justice system?

Many of those that argue, no, they should be treated as enemy combatants, are also often opposed to the idea of having a separate category and sentencing for violent assaults considered 'hate crimes'. Senator McCain voted against expanding the definitions of hate crimes and enhancing  the federal government's ability to investigate and prosecute hate crimes.   But if you look at them both, a hate crime and an act of terrorism are basically the same type of crime.  The intended victims are not specific individuals but rather chosen (randomly) because they are part of a collective group, such as gays, Latinos or Americans.  The crimes are not really associated with some other purpose, such as robbery, but are just an act of violence directed toward the chosen group, with the effect of causing fear and anxiety amongst the larger collective. 

I guess this contradiction occurs because in most cases those who oppose special hate crime classification don't usually find themselves amongst the targeted group.  But when the target group is Americans in general then it's a different tune they sing.  Suddenly they find themselves filled with fear and anxiety.  Now it becomes a serious threat, and matter of national security, an act of war.

Welcome to the world of being targeted for the simple fact of who you are.