Friday, September 21, 2012

More on Hate-Crimes, and A Word on Hate-Artists

Earlier this week I commented on the trial that was going on in Ohio where a number of Amish defendants were accused of hate crimes. The trial concluded yesterday when the jury came back with guilty verdicts against 17 Amish defendants who cut the hair and/or beards of a number of other Amish people. Although jokes have been made about this case, the tragedy is that a number of children will be left fatherless or parentless (some women were also convicted) if the jury imposes jail sentences on the guilty parties.

In my previous comments on this case, I focused on the "hate-crime" aspect. What troubles me even now about this case is that the defendants and the victims were all of the same religion. Can you commit a hate-crime against someone when you are of the same religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.? In this case, cutting the hair was doubtless an act that had religious significance. But was it hating the person for his. her crime that caused the actor to act? I can see this if it was a non-Amish person who perpetrated the crime. But if the act is merely something that is unique to the protected class, is that all it takes?

If I know that my mother prays her rosary daily, and I steal her rosary so that she will not be able to say it, is that a hate crime? It seems to me that the Amish who cut the beards of other Amish were not hating the religion as much as they were respecting the religion. In other words, they also believed that you must grow your hair and not cut it, so they were trying to using a tactic that they knew would have meaning to the victims. Thus, if an Amish man's beard is cut off, it is a worse crime than if my husband's beard is cut off. So does this not make crime and punishment subjective to the beliefs of the victim AND the intent of the perpetrator? What is someone had seen the Amish man's beard and thought, wow, that would be great for "Locks for Love," and the person tackled him and cut his beard? Does the fact that he has no idea of the religious significance to the Amish man make it any less serious of a crime?

I could go on and on with scenarios, variations, and questions. Obviously, I am still struggling with this.

What about this guy who claims to be an artist and, in 1987,  puts a crucifix in a jar, urinates into the jar, and takes a photograph. Then he calls it art, names it "Immersion (Piss Christ)", gets praised, and it gets displayed all over the United States. It's not a particularly good photograph either. One of the copies was even attacked and "destroyed" in France, and another in Australia some years ago.

Andres Serrano and his beat-up photo.

Does it not matter that these actions of Serrano hurt the sensibilities of Christians? Why is this not a hate-crime? Is it because he photographed it and called it art? He obviously intends to evoke a response -- namely anger. So wasn't the person who destroyed it merely expressing himself also? Serrano did not create this controversial piece for beauty or aesthetics. He wanted gut reaction, and he wanted notoriety. He got both. And those who find it offensive? Well, they can go to ... another art gallery.

How about this artwork? It's called Piss-n-Poop POTUS. Put that in your museum and smoke it.

Maybe the Amish defendants should have said they were artists.

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