Where do you draw the line?

“SECTION 20. INDIVIDUAL DIGNITY: To promote individual dignity, communications that portray criminality, depravity or lack of virtue in, or that incite violence, hatred, abuse or hostility toward, a person or group of persons by reason of or by reference to religious, racial, ethnic, national or regional affiliation are condemned.

The above comes from the Illinois Constitution. You’ll notice that it’s very careful to say “condemned” and not Illegal.

In my opinion ideologies that we might find distasteful should be dealt with in an intellectual fashion, but when ideologues translate their talk into violent action, they should be met with an equal reaction. The trouble is, by that time, it’s too late.

Admittedly, many of us are jumping to conclusions regarding the murder of Judge Lefkow’s husband and mother. It’s very easy to imgagine that this just might be the work of Matthew Hale’s cronies, or perhaps an organization that’s sympathetic to his cause, but it could be the work of someone else hoping to take advantage of our quickness to blame one of these extremist organizations.

Regardless, the situation gives us an opportunity to discuss where we draw the line when it comes to hate speech and extremist organizations. I have a very tough time with this issue. Our nation is built on the protection of dissent, and I believe that even hate groups and those with extreme visions of what the world should look like should have the right to express their views. But when those views turn into violent or acts of intimidation, they’ve gone too far. When this happens, I think our government has every right, if not a duty, to squash those organizations like a fucking bug. By then, however, it’s too late… people have already been killed, homes have already been burned, lives already destroyed.

What are we, you and I, to do about it? What is the government supposed to do about it? How do we determine when a Nazi group is ABOUT TO go too far? How do we determine when a Tim McVeigh is ABOUT TO blow up a building? How do we determine when religious fundamentalists are ABOUT TO become religious extremists?

I believe that extremist ideologies should be met with an active constructive criticism aimed at the same audience they’re targeting. Some would argue against protesting Klan rallies, as “it gives them too much attention” or “it’s exactly what they want,” but you know what? You don’t go to protest a Klan rally to change their mind, you go for that 15 year old kid who’s a little lost and very susceptible to the “glamor” and “power” of such organizations. You go to make the point that, “this is totally not cool.”

But when these organizations move beyond rhetoric, and move into violation our fundamental human rights, like say… LIFE, when they behave like animals, they endanger our society at large. NO ONE should have to live in fear of such people, Judges should not have to wonder, “will my family be systematically slaughtered if I rule against this guy?”

How can we put a stop to this without destroying our civil liberties? Should extremists be subject to perhaps, just a few less rights to privacy? I think so. I believe in the right to bear arms, but I also believe that it should be at least as hard to get a gun as it is to get a driver’s license. Similarly, I believe in the right to free speech and the right of privacy, but I also believe in the right to continue breathing.

And if any of you Nazis, Klansmen, jihadists or what have you have a problem with what I’m saying, come get me. I’m at 1060 West Addison.

Extremism in America, an introduction

6 Comments so far

  1. Sean (unregistered) on March 6th, 2005 @ 12:54 pm

    Hi there from your fellow metblog site in London ;-) Are such symbols banned as they are across Europe?

  2. Jason (unregistered) on March 6th, 2005 @ 10:32 pm

    Nope. Are they banned in the UK? I didn’t think they were, what with Sid and Harry and all.

  3. Jennifer Roche (unregistered) on March 7th, 2005 @ 6:41 am

    Yeah, you gotta speak up. That’s for sure. Thanks for doing so. What is that photo of? Also, for the record, Judge Lefkow is my hero. I am stunned by the level of resolve, grace and humanity she has shown in the face of these heinous crimes. No way I could have met those events in my life with anywhere near the courage she has shown. She’s an example for us all.

  4. Beerstoya (unregistered) on March 7th, 2005 @ 7:53 am

    I like the Wrigley Field bit…

  5. Jason (unregistered) on March 8th, 2005 @ 12:36 am

    The photo is of a “tinny” from a Nazi/Union rally here in 1938.. sort of a giveaway pin for supporters in Der Mittelwest.

  6. Significant Other (unregistered) on March 8th, 2005 @ 6:52 am

    Concerning men like racist Matthew Hale, Jane Middleton-Moz (“Boiling Point; the High Cost of Unhealthy Anger to Individuals and Society,” 1999) writes: “Fanatics experience blind rage whenever their vulnerability, powerlessness and self-hate is triggered. Fanatics channel all their aggression toward a faceless enemy conveniently characterized by the ‘imperfections’ they themselves have been accused [by abusive parents] of possessing: selfishness, sexuality, homosexuality, laziness, weakness, vulnerability, stupidity, heathenism, promiscuity, dependency, etc. Rage that was once directed toward the fanatic as if he or she were inhuman becomes directed at others whom the fanatic deems inhuman.”

    In other words, scapegoating, the mechanics of evil. And the “mud races”–apparently along with authorities that dare hold the fanatic accountable–are lined up in the cross-hairs.

    Yes, society has a right to protect the innocent against individuals so delusional that they attack in others what, if they had the awareness (or intelligence) to comprehend, they fear in themselves.

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