It is a melancholy fact to face that while most of us, most of the time, like to imagine that we live our lives by some sort of moral code, and respect our fellows as beings deserving of respect if they do not threaten our lives or property, some people do not live by such a code, nor care. One particular species of maggot in our world is the person who likes to verbally and physically abuse disabled persons.
The issue of care and protection of the mentally and physically handicapped, raising as it does issues of personal autonomy, concerns about abuse of state power and medicine, etc, is too big an issue to push into a blog post. No, the point I want to address is the narrower one of whether it makes any sense at all to create another “hate crime”: the crime, as it were, of hating disabled people. In brief, I think creating such a “hate crime” is foolish, albeit an understandable move driven by those with honorable motives to protect the weak.
Let’s be clear from the get-go that I regard those who hate, and who act on that hate, of disabled people to be scum of the earth. It does bother me, though, that a crime of say, assault on a person and his property should be treated as being far more serious because the state has tried to measure, or establish, the hate that exists in the mind of the attacker. A crime is a crime, surely. If an able-bodied man is mugged in the street, does it make any specific difference in terms of sentencing the criminal, assuming the criminal is caught? The area where physical or mental disability comes into play in sentencing a criminal is where, say, the disability clearly meant that the disabled victim could not defend himself. That is why assaults on the aged and infirm, and on children, are treated – at least supposedly – more severely than assaults on say, the holder of a karate black belt. Of course, in investigating a crime, the fact that a suspect has a motive such as hate of group X or Y might be useful in helping to narrow down a list of suspects. However, as a factor in sentencing, the idea of “hate crime” strikes me as nonsense.
What next – political hate crimes where a person is sentenced for the crime of “hating” those in public office or who are members of certain ideological/political groupings?