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It Couldn’t Happen Here?

The other night curiosity got the better of me and I watched the TV show Life on Mars. The premise is that a cop from the present wakes up to find himself as a cop in the 1970s. This particular episode was about the investigation into the death of a homosexual man. The anachronistic cop says to his 1970s chief, “This is a hate crime.” The chief replies, “Well, it’s not a like-you-very-much crime, that’s for sure.”

It’s a funny line, and it reminded me that, at one time, most people would have reacted to the idea of a “hate crime” the same way the chief did. But in the brave new world of TV dramas, the chief is the Archie Bunker character who needs to be dragged into enlightenment and out of the bad old days before sensitivity training.

We’re so used to the term “hate crime” by now that we forget how new it is—and how dangerous. And how did we get so used to it? By hearing it every day, day after day, until we forget that the very idea is an assault on our freedom, an invasion of the most heinous kind that presumes to know and judge not actions but motivations.

Now, in addition to hate crimes, we have “hate speech.” See Ron Rychlak’s article on page 6. Because you and I are guilty. At least I am, and I hope you are. My most recent offense was putting a sign in my window supporting Proposition 8, an amendment to the California constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman. The TV police chief would find it laughable that anyone would argue otherwise. The 70s were hardly a moral peak, so it shows you how far we’ve sunk. Makes you wish for the bad old days. Now, a sign supporting traditional marriage makes me a hater—at least according to the shouts of passersby. When did we become the enemy?

Back in 2001, I was having a conversation with a priest friend about the troubling direction our country was taking. He told me that we should be prepared for wholesale persecution of Christians in this country during our lifetimes. He fully expected to go to jail for upholding the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. No, I argued. This is America. We have freedoms, protections. It couldn’t go that wrong that quickly.

A mere seven years later, I now believe that Father was right. He usually is.


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