Add a couple of hundred years to a life sentence.
A federal grand jury has added hate crimes charges to the indictment against the alleged gunman in the shooting attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue that left 11 worshippers dead, Oct. 27, 2018.
The new indictment adds a total of 19 charges, including 13 for hate crimes, to the 44 federal charges already filed against Robert Bowers. Twenty-two of the charges are punishable by death. Federal prosecutors reportedly are seeking approval to pursue the death penalty.
When 11 people were murdered in the Pittsburgh synagogue, did anyone doubt that this mass murder was an act of anti-Semitic hate? No.
When 11 people were murdered in the Pittsburgh synagogue, did we need the statement of the murderer that he wanted to kill Jews to know that he hated Jews? No.
Did any Jew doubt that the murderer targeted not only his specific victims, but all Jews? No.
Was it only the 11 victims and the survivors of the Pittsburgh synagogue who regard themselves as threatened by this anti-Semitic mass murder? No.
In the aftermath of the mass murder, have synagogues around the country ignored their security? No.
Was the addition of the hate crime charges necessary to show that American governmental authorities — from the President to the Congress to Governors to Mayors to City Councilpeople — condemned this mass murder? No.
Will the addition of hate crime charges deter any other would be murderer from commiting mass murder of Jews? No.
Will the addition of the hate crime charges increase the likelihood of a guilty conviction of the Pittsburgh murderer? No.
Will the addition of the hate crime charges increase the likelihood that the murderer will remain in prison longer than if he were only convicted on the multiple murder charges he already faces (that is, if he is not sentenced to death)? No.
All these self-evident no’s add up to this: There is no practical, juridical or communal difference effectuated by the addition of these hate crime charges. There is no difference for the murderer, no difference for the victims, no difference for the Jewish community. We did not need a hate crime charge to know that something radical changed for American Jews with this Pittsburgh shooting, and we did not need a hate crime charge to know that our government is radically different from other governments in history, which were indifferent to, or causative of, anti-Semitic violence.
The Pittsburgh mass murder is a perfect illustration of, at best, the powerlessness of hate-crime statutes to improve society, and, at worst, the damage caused by hate-crime statues. They divide society along the lines of victimhood. They render, for example, one murder victim worse off than another. They aid and abet the impulses in society that multiply the categories of division between people within our nation, that hold us back from seeing human beings as . . . human beings.
“ . . . one nation, under G-d, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Copyright © 2019 by the Intermountain Jewish News