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April 30, 2005

Healing, Curing & Hate Crimes

(from the archives, November 1998)

While you are away on vacation, some hooligans break into your house and have a drug party. They trash your rooms and steal all your valuables. They draw satanic symbols on your walls in blood and they tell you that they have pictures and addresses of all your relatives, whom they intend to hunt down and slaughter.

You come home to discover this disaster and alert the proper folks. Within a week the police have captured the responsible parties, the insurance company has paid up and refurnished your home, and your relatives are all safe. However you still have an enormous sense of violation and victimization.

You have been cured, but you have not been healed.

So you speak to professional counselors, your spiritual leaders, your family and friends. You take some more time off and you read a book on the subject. 3 months later you are better than new, you have a new sense of strength and have learned from this the value of life.

So the trial date comes and you look for the first time upon the perpetrators of this crime. You are without anger, and you find it easy to forgive the defendants, and so you do.

You have been healed and cured.

The point I wish to make is that I don't believe it is appropriate to expect both healing and curing from the justice system.

So. Now what if the jury decides to acquit the defendants of all charges? Are you then not healed? Do you recant your forgiveness? Are you actually weaker than you thought? Were those counselors and spiritual leaders and books and friends all wrong?

I think of hate crimes legislation in the context of communities which are much accustomed to the miscarriage of justice. These are the people who have known this experience, and their decision to strengthen the *cure* rather than to recant the *healing* is the best evidence I can think of showing them to be exemplary people. That is why phrases like 'protected class' grate on my nerves.

What is *fair* is not necessarily that which is blind to distinction. A system of justice whose ability to cure is faulty, especially in light of people's ability to heal, desperately needs reform, not abandonment. To suggest that hate crimes cannot 'legislate morality' or introduce 'inequality' among 'protected classes' is to ignore the healing spirit of those who have demanded them.

Posted by mbowen at April 30, 2005 12:29 PM

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