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"Ain't that America, home of the free,

Little pink houses for you and me."

--John Cougar Mellencamp

Yes, baby, baby, it's a wild world. Thankfully, the American court system is there to dispense justice for those who make it too wild, uncomfortably wild, criminally wild. Most of the time the system works. Once in a while, though . . . .

An Iowa man was sentenced to almost 16 years in prison after burning a pride flag. This from The Des Moines Register:

"An Ames man was sentenced Wednesday to about 16 years in prison after he set fire to a church's LGBTQ flag in June. Adolfo Martinez, 30, of Ames, last month was found guilty of a hate crime--a class D felony--third-degree harassment and reckless use of fire. Police said he stole a pride banner hanging at Ames United Church of Christ, 217 Sixth St., and burned it early June 11 outside Dangerous Curves Gentleman's Club, 111 Fifth St."

It's certainly a bizarre story. A man stole property from a church and then burned it outside of a strip club. He was given 16 years because he was an habitual offender.

But there it is in the fine print: This man was charged with a hate crime, too. The criminalization of thought is back. And this same bad idea is again decked out in newspeak.

If a crime is committed against someone, that should be reason enough for justice. What the perp is thinking shouldn't matter. Thoughtcrime is hard to prove. The prosecution of hate can get confusing.

Habitual offender statutes are perfectly understandable. Plus, he took something that belonged to a church. And destroyed it. So check off boxes for stealing and destruction, too.

But the big problem with the concept of thoughtcrime is that it's arbitrary--it doesn't require much thought. Such laws only seem to cover the hate of certain groups. So other folks, or their possessions, are only given the ordinary protection of law.

That's a direction We the People need to avoid. Criminals need to be punished. And punished more if they're in the habit--but no matter what they're thinking. The system can't be seen assigning any special terms for those who aren't equal-opportunity violators of law and morality.

Too bad it does.

Editorial on 12/23/2019

Print Headline: Ain't that America

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