A man who works for the immense brokerage firm Merrill Lynch (where I have had an account since I was 12; I am now 77) went in January to Robeks, a smoothie franchise in Fairfield, Connecticut, with his teenage son.
The man ordered a drink for his son, who was severely allergic to nuts, and stressed to the staff that the drink must not contain peanuts.
He got the smoothie and gave it to his son.
The son had an extremely severe reaction.
He had difficulty breathing, and his skin turned a different shade.
He had to have emergency medical treatment at the hospital, which saved his life.
The man went back to the shop and flew into a rage, throwing a drink and cursing at the employees. Among other things, he told them he hated immigrants and that one of them had almost killed his son.
Incredibly, the police were called.
That’s not really the incredible part.
The incredible part is that the man was then charged with a number of "hate crimes" for using negative language and lost his job at Merrill Lynch.
At about the same date, a couple returning from a sporting event in New York City were on a railroad train. A large family of people with foreign accents asked the couple to move seats so the family could sit together.
The couple went ballistic.
They screamed curse words at the family and told them how much they hated immigrants.
Then they threw beer on them. The police were called, and the couple was charged with "hate crimes." Someone on the accusing side said that among the other problems with the couple was that they "had hatred in their hearts."
Now, please don’t get me wrong. I detest anyone screaming at anyone else for any reason.
I really detest people using racial or ethnic slurs. I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s.
I was called "a dirty f***ing Jew" in elementary school.
The girl I was dating, and who I wanted to take to the senior prom in 1962, was barred by her father from going with me because I was a Jew.
My parents were not allowed to buy a home in the neighborhood they wanted to live in because it was "restricted" against Jews, as were all the best private schools in the D.C. area and all of the most exclusive clubs.
So, I don’t like race baiting.
And I promise you, it leaves an indelible scar on the hated person’s heart.
I still feel the pain when Judy stopped me in the breezeway of the C building at Montgomery Blair High School and told me how her father would not let her go to the prom with me because I was (and am) a Jew — and that was 60 years ago.
But should hatred without action be a crime?
That’s the question. Yes, tossing a beer at someone is a crime.
But should words be a crime? Should thought be a crime? Should carrying hatred in one’s heart be a crime? Deplorable, yes. Deeply unfortunate, yes.
But a crime? That’s all too close to "thoughtcrime" — the worst kind of crime in George Orwell’s classic sci-fi novel "1984."
It’s way too close to the actual "thought crime" enforced by the "thought police," the Kempeitai of the 1930s and 1940s in Imperial Japan.
This crime included such acts as wearing a Western-style dress or having a Western-style haircut. It entailed serious punishment. "Thoughtcrime," according to "1984," does not entail death. It is death.
Are we headed there in America right now, where thoughts, definitely bad, are crimes?
That way lies a totalitarian dictatorship.
Let’s all try to have love in our hearts.
Let’s leave hatred back in history and not in modern-day America.
But let’s stay way away from "thoughtcrime." Way, far away.
Ben Stein is a writer, an actor, and a lawyer who served as a speechwriter in the Nixon administration as the Watergate scandal unfolded. He began his unlikely road to stardom when director John Hughes hired him as the numbingly dull economics teacher in the urban comedy, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Read more more reports from Ben Stein — Click Here Now.
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