What would you do if you read in New York Times that Man Kills 3 at Jewish Centers in Kansas City Suburb? You would go on line and type thepotholeveiw.com and read what Marquel, the TPV’s Times Passover Correspondent had to say. Marquel reports: Assailant shouted “Heil Hitler,” police say too early to determine if a hate crime.
Marquel was curious what constitutes a hate crime and what difference it makes, especially to the victim. Marquel ran his hand around his head and wondered whether it would feel different when hit with a blunt object if it was motivated by hate. He also wondered whether all crimes weren’t hate crimes and if there were such a thing as a love crime. If so, OJ might have committed one, and also this Pistorius guy with the alien legs. But all their victims are still dead.
So I spoke to the police in Kansas City. “If this guy said Heil Hitler and shot these Jews…isn’t that a hate crime?” I asked.
“Not necessarily. We need to know what motivated him.” Said the sheriff.
“Heil Hitler isn’t enough?”
“Not by itself. He might shoot for entirely different reasons.” Said the sheriff.
“Like what?”, I asked.
“He might have been mad at the architect of the synagogue, or maybe his barber lives there, or his stockbroker. Or someone there might have sold him a bum car.” Said the sheriff.
“So let me get this straight,” I said, “He buys a used car from one of these people and it’s a lemon. He takes it personally, shoots to avenge his car and says Heil Hitler. Is that your theory?” I wondered.
“Could be.” He said.
“Would you do that, I mean, shout Heil Hitler, let’s say after you arrest someone?” I asked.
“Of course not. The first thing I do is read them their rights. And I couldn’t end by saying, ‘and if you can’t afford a lawyer one will be appointed for you. Heil Hitler.’ ” he noted.
“You’re right,” I said, “that’s just too strange.”
So I went to the rabbi. “Rabbi, do you think this is a hate crime?”
“Hate crime shmate crime,” he said. “Who knows?”
“I think I agree with you there. Why do we do anything?” I asked. “Does anybody know?”
The rabbi looked at me with one eye closed as if he were winking at me. “Only God knows for sure. You, you might think you know. And you might be right. Or wrong.”
“Wow,” I said, “life is complicated. What about Heil Hitler. Those are ugly words aren’t they?”
“Yes, very ugly,” said the rabbi. “But the holocaust wasn’t pretty.”
I asked, “is that what those words make you think of?”
“Oh yes,” he said. “And you?”
“I’m afraid so,” I agreed.
We sat looking at each other. I tried doing it with one eye. He did it back. I changed eyes. He was stoic and changed nothing. I felt like talking but could think of nothing. I blinked. He blinked.
“Rabbi,” I asked, “can you tell me. Was the holocaust a hate crime?” He continued to stare. Same eye. He thought.
“Hate crime? It was a crime against humanity. Hate crime? I don’t know where to start. We have a saying that when you save someone’s life, you save the world. I think the opposite also applies. When you take a life you kill the world. Hate is too cheap an emotion to kill the world. No the holocaust was not a hate crime and neither was this. That man killed the world. It matters not what he said or thought or felt. The world is too important. That’s why God made it.” I figured the sermon was over so I said Shalom and Happy Passover.
“Chag Sameach,” he shouted as I left. He couldn’t see me but I had one eye closed. I had a lot to think about.
For more religious news follow Marquel on Twitter @MarquelatTPV.
Village Shalom at Jewish Centers in Kansas City Suburb Targeted