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Domestic Bigots Cause More Damage than Foreign Terrorists
As the federal government preoccupies itself with fighting the war against terror, it must not neglect the terror that Americans can inflict on one another at home. At the same time, we should be circumspect about our rhetoric as we affirm our commitment to the ideals of freedom by debating our government's policies. The recent spate of hate crimes across the country - about 1000 incidents, some of them fatal - calls for two responses. Congress and the president should pass and sign national hate crimes legislation. On the local level, each of us has the obligation to refrain from provocative remarks that embolden and reinforce the bigots' view that we are engaging in a war against a particular culture or religion.
Whatever contributions economic or political injustice may have on the support for terrorist regimes, those organizations ultimately thrive on a zealotry borne of group thought. This is evident in the terrorists' calls for all people of a certain group to take up a jihad against the 'infidels' who cannot claim the same group membership. In contrast, the battle that the United States is now waging is not directed at any group except for the people who commit mass murder under the influence of group identity. Americans are individualists at heart. We eschew the politics of racial division and ethnic pandering. We abhor discrimination, which violates another's individuality by ascribing to him a group identity and subsequently mistreating him. We are especially appalled when the maltreatment escalates into assault, battery and homicide.
Thus, in the 1993 Supreme Court case Wisconsin v. Mitchell, the justices unanimously upheld Wisconsin's hate crimes statute, which imposed additional penalties for perpetrators motivated by animus toward another's race. The Court reasoned that judges and juries routinely consider a perpetrator's motives as aggravating factors. For example, premeditated murder is punished more severely than random killing. Considering the criminal's bias in sentencing is consistent with our juridical principles. However, it is not enough for a handful of states to consider bias as an aggravating factor in sentencing. We need to express the nation's consensus that, as a liberal society, we condemn the illiberal thoughts that inspire hate crimes. Treating people differently on the basis of perceived group identities, which derive in turn from superficialities like physical appearance, is the greatest unfreedom. While an orderly society cannot tolerate crime, a free society simply cannot tolerate crimes borne of ignorance and group thought.
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"Terrorism - Domestic Bigots More Dangerous than Foreign Terrorists." 123HelpMe.com. 28 Mar 2020
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On a local and personal level, we can temper the hatred by being abstemious in our rhetoric. While many detractors suggest that the United States fosters bigotry by waging a war against Islam or the people of Afghanistan, it is actually this very suggestion itself that gives bigots mistaken impressions. When the government's actions and words all suggest the contrary, to make the irresponsible charge that U.S. military action is directed at a particular population only serves to encourage the bigots for whom such a policy would be ideal.
While foreign bigots attacked one aspect of our way of life on Sept. 11, domestic bigots have severely tested another aspect - our commitment to tolerance and individualism. All of us - on a national and individual level - have a role to play in battling the brigades of bigotry at home and abroad.