Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hate crimes

It's been a rough few weeks here in the Tree City dealing with some pretty horrific news. A few days ago, a 23 year old Kent State student was attacked in downtown Kent, apparently for no specific reason, and beaten severely enough to put him in a coma. He died a few days later. The suspects arrested were not from Kent (both are from Akron and one was a student at the University of Akron), but a few days later there were reports of armed robberies on the KSU campus. While I'm disturbed by this to say the least, the issue that jumped out at me and several other readers has to do with race. The KSU student attacked was white, while the two men charged with the initial assault are, you guessed it, black. The same was true with the robberies on campus: white victims, black assailants (those 4 men were all young, ages 17-18, and three of them are KSU students). What I've seen in the article comments got me thinking as a lot of people are calling for these to be labeled "hate crimes". There is truth to the fact that if this were the other way around (white assailants and black victims) racism would most certainly be called in as a factor. No doubt about it. Why it doesn't happen when the victim is white is beyond me. Of course the investigation is ongoing and we still have to learn what the real motive was behind this horrible crime. Was it racially motivated? I honestly don't know. My gut feeling tells me it isn't; that it was more random. But what's really been on my mind is the whole "hate crime" thing.

Hate crimes are basically something done solely as a result of someone's race, religion, ideology, gender, sexual orientation. Just recently, a bill was made law that extended "protection" to people based on their sexual orientation. But honestly, do we even need hate crime legislation? I honestly don't believe we do. In the end, a crime is a crime and should be punished accordingly regardless of the motive. Whether someone was killed because of their race or because they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time is irrelevant; all that matters is that they were killed senselessly. Hate crime legislation is just a way for us to pat ourselves on the back and feel like we're protecting the little guy. It's also a way for politicians to pander to specific groups to appear to champion their cause. In the end, however, it doesn't protect the little guy any more than already existing laws that govern crime. Why should someone get a lesser punishment for murder because it wasn't racially motivated? I mean, really, the only place it should come up would be in arguing self defense. But beyond that, motive shouldn't affect how a criminal is punished. It's either a crime or it isn't; it's not more of a crime because it was motivated by hatred for something like race or gender. And why is hatred of someone because of their race, age, gender, etc. so bad, but simply hating someone because you hate them is "less" of a crime? Sorry, cold-blooded murder regardless of motive is still cold-blooded murder and should be dealt with accordingly.

Hate crime legislation has also been shown to not be a deterrent in preventing the very thing they are designed to. Why? Because the people who commit hate crimes are criminals; they don't care about the punishment, otherwise they wouldn't commit the crime in the first place. This comes from the super-liberal website, published 9 August 2009:

In 1999, some 21 states and the District of Columbia had hate-crimes laws on the books. Today, 45 states have enacted hate-crime laws in some form or other. Yet the trend has not been a lowering of hate crimes. In 2006, 7,722 hate-crime incidents were reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2006--an 8 percent increase from 2005.

The data: 2,640 were anti-Black (up from 2,630 in 2005); 967 were anti-Jewish (up from 848 in 2005); 890 were anti-white (up from 828 in 2005); 747 were anti-male homosexual (up from 621 in 2005); 576 were anti-Hispanic (up from 522 in 2005); 156 were anti-Islamic (up from 128 in 2005). Hate groups also appear to be on the rise. According to the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of hate groups has increased by 54 percent since 2000.
The full article can be found here. This next quote comes from a column written in the Washington Post by Richard Cohen. He wrote this column 4 August 2009 shortly after the shooting this summer at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. I felt his column pretty much summed up exactly what I was thinking, so you should have a read!
Let us assume that the "community" is really affected by what we call a hate crime. I am Jewish. But even with von Brunn's attack, I am more affected by a mugging in my neighborhood that might keep me from taking a walk at night than I am by a shooting at the Holocaust museum. If there's a murder in a park, I'll stay out of it for months. If there's a rape, women will stay out of the park. If there's another and another, women will know that a real hater is loose. Rape, though, is not a hate crime. Why not?
So, while I am saddened immesely by the death of this KSU student, his murderers should be punished according to the laws dealing with cold-blooded murder, not as a hate crime. I really don't care why they did it; the fact is they did it and now must pay the penalty. I also want to send my condolences and deepest sympathies to the family of the victim, Christopher Kernich. I hope and pray they are able to again find some peace and that justice is served. Our community has been attacked and this crime has truly saddened me even though I did not even know Mr. Kernich existed until a few days ago. No family should have to worry about sending their loved one(s) to a college town like Kent or anywhere for that matter. May God bless and comfort you in your time of need.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Are YOU a Utard?

Every once and awhile I'm reminded of a certain mindset, which I and many others refer to as being a "Utard" ("YOO-tard"). This blog post will attempt to explain what a Utard actually is and what it isn't to hopefully help any readers deal with this crippling and debilitating disease and way of thinking.

Of course the root of "Utard" is "Utah", meaning the state of Utah. That's not to say Utards only come from Utah, but most do and this ideology is most prevalent in and near Utah. It is certainly not to imply that anyone from Utah is a Utard. If they haven't come from Utah, their way of viewing reality is so close, and they lead others to believe they are from Utah or a similar environment. Similar environments can be found in many parts of the inter-mountain western United States, particularly in southern Idaho and parts of Wyoming, Arizona, and Nevada. These are typically areas with a high concentration of Latter-day Saints (aka Mormons) but need not be limited strictly to rural or suburban areas.

In the most general terms, a "Utard" is an individual who is also a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka the Mormon Church) who has developed a belief that living in or near Utah somehow entitles them to greater knowledge, understanding, and blessings than those poor, less-fortunate fellow Latter-day Saints who live further away from Church Headquarters. Generally, Utards will refer to areas outside of Utah (and adjacent areas that also have a high concentration of church members) as the "mission field" and will refer to Utah as "Zion." They regard the Church as having reached some level of maturity or perfection in Utah, as demonstrated by the large number of LDS wards, stakes, temples, and meetinghouses that dot the state. They also regard this maturity as a sign not of numbers and demographics, but as a show of spirituality and righteousness. When they do actually venture into the "mission field" it is their job to guide these sweet-spirited, but inexperienced members in the "correct" way of following Church procedures and guidelines. Other Utards will counsel Utards in the "mission field" that they know far more about how the Church runs than anyone in their respective ward or stake regardless of how long any of the involved parties have actually been members of the Church. Remember, being from Utah means that person has additional knowledge and understanding that other members out in the "mission field" do not have, again, regardless of how long anyone has actually been in the Church or what positions they have served in.

In general, most Utards have rarely lived outside a heavy-LDS environment and struggle immensely when required to do so for an extended period of time whether it be for a business trip or an actual relocation for school or work. Most times, Utards will avoid such decisions or spend as little time in a "mission field" as possible. Many Utards' only experience outside an LDS-dominated atmosphere is spent on their own missions (which in themselves are hardly isolated, but hardly totally "in the world" either). Once they finish with their required time in a given mission field, Utards welcome the chance to return to "Zion" to share their valiant stories of struggle amongst the Gentiles (non-Mormons) and having to sacrifice "so much" just to drive to church each week as opposed to walking or how hard it was to "stay spiritual" with all the "worldly influences" surrounding them in these secular, unholy cities. Once back in Utah (if they ever left in the first place), they will reminisce about their days growing up when the nearest temples were nearly an hour away or there were only 2 stakes in town instead of 6. They will regard these as "hardships" where they had to make "great sacrifices" so they can relate to those in the "mission field". I blogged about this specific phenomenon in Utardism a few months ago with the opening of the Oquirrh Mountain Temple.

In dealing with marriage, Utards believe that an individual does not truly enter his or her adulthood until he or she has been married. It does not matter how young someone is when they marry (18-19 is most common for females, 21 for males), but once that threshold has been crossed, they have entered adulthood, which earns to respect of other "adults" (who are also married of course) regardless of any other outward indications that the newly married individual actually possesses an ounce of maturity or life experience. No, until an individual is married, regardless of age, he or she cannot be treated as an adult. People who do not marry obviously have some sort of obedience issues or disregard the Prophet's counsel and should be confined to Singles Wards. While it is true that Mormons in general regard marriage as one of the faith's highest sacraments, they do not regard it as any type of actual barrier in treating an individual differently.

Probably the easiest trait to pick out in diagnosing a Utard is how he or she responds to open criticisms or even simple jests about Utah and Utah culture. Utards are horribly offended by anyone criticizing their state, even if the criticism is valid or comes from real-life experience. Rather than seek to understand the criticism or even lend a sympathetic ear, a Utard will instead try to counteract with some criticism about the other person's home state or culture (also known as a "Straw Man" argument). Utards take any criticism or joke that is aimed at Utah very personally and generally lack any type of humor in regards to Utah and LDS-related things. It's more than just a simple matter of Utah pride; it's a belief in Utah perfection and superiority without any concrete facts to support such a belief.

In closing, it is my hope that instead of Utards, we can have just Utahan members of the Church who love Utah and celebrate its many blessings and accomplishments as a State without forgetting to understand that how we feel about a certain area all depends on who we are. In other words, there are lots of wonderful places in the world that have great people and assets; LDS and not. Be happy where we are and be proud of it enough to make it better, but never assume that any place has reached any level of perfection of plateau or that an area's blessings are purely the result of that population's righteousness. Of course I also hope to have more members of the Church who recognize that it's not so much a matter of when we join the Church, but that we actually do and stay in the Church. Living closer to Church headquarters makes someone no better, more knowledgeable, or stronger a member than living near Washington, DC makes someone a better American. There are strong and weak members EVERYWHERE in the Church, not just in Utah and not just in the "mission field".