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Web Letter

I am absolutely blown away that Alexander Cockburn is still writing in the pages of The Nation. Recently he did a total hatchet job on Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and now this garbage about the effort to pass the Matthew Shepherd Hate Crimes Act.

Mr. Cockburn is obviously uninformed and bigoted. There are thousands of hate groups in America, and this week's shooting at the Holocaust Museum is a vivid reminder of the lunatic fringe in America.

I am a 68-year-old gay man and I personally knew three young gay men who were murdered before I was 30 because they were gay. In the early sixties when Florida had its own Joseph McCarthy in State Senator Charley Johns, who ran the Florida Legislative Investigative Committee, commonly known as the Johns Committe. The attempt was to root out communists and homosexuals in Florida government, schools, colleges and universities. Many were fired and many more committed suicide.

Cockburn reveals his total ignorance and hostility to minorities who have suffered abuse since the beginning of time. He needs to be out of The Nation!

Winston E Johnson

Atlanta, GA

Jun 15 2009 - 12:15pm

Web Letter

When white privileged people decry hate crime legislation as punishing "thought," they are being ingenuous. The prosecution of every single crime goes to motive--knowing the mind of the perpetrator. It colors every sentence handed down, since intent is critical to the degree of culpability.

Hate crimes differ markedly from other crimes in the specific targeting of not just an individual, which is horrific enough, but of an entire population. Hate crimes are punished for acts, not thoughts, but the motive of striking fear in others to stop them from being who they are or acting as they choose has huge implications for large numbers of people.

Only those who are not and never will be objects of that kind of targeted violence can be so blasé as to dismiss motive when it's an element of every crime. Hate crimes are forms of genocidal action. Why would we not have enhanced sentences based on that motive?

Elizabeth Sholes

Sacramento, CA

Jun 15 2009 - 11:26am

Web Letter

Thought I'd wonder aloud whether or not it's time for Mr. Cockburn to retire. Previously a fan of the column, I'm aghast at his recent offering.

"The victims' lobby rules," he says, apparently explaining why the Matthew Shepard Act is even being considered in Congress--after ten years! "Federal and state hate crime laws are unnecessary and dangerous." No, sir, hate is dangerous. It is embodied in statements like Mr. Cockburn's "month after undendurable month of gays whining on TV about the horrors of not being able to 'marry.' "

The fight for marriage equality is a fight against hate. In conjunction with support for hate-crime legislation, it shows the growing confidence of one of society's marginalized groups, a confidence required to fight hate and inequality in all of its forms, especially the most atrocious as experienced by Matthew Shepard.

Of course, it's "actually somewhat unclear" to Mr. Cockburn that Shepard's murderers "specifically hated gays," but it seems that a lot of things are pretty unclear to this driveling columnist.

"Goodbye to equality under the law," he says--rather belatedly, as though it ever existed and is being threatened by hate-crimes laws. He's worried that "crimes against some types of victims will incur greater penalties." They already do, sir: capital crimes against whites.

Mr. Cockburn has done a good job of hiding his bitter simplemindedness up until now. Please wake up, sir, or make room in The Nation's pages for someone in touch with our struggles.

Chris Yarrison

Annapolis, MD

Jun 8 2009 - 7:50am