The Toll of Violence

By Kathryn Jean Lopez Published on January 19, 2021

In preparation for Election Day, Manhattan businesses boarded up in case violence erupted if Donald Trump won reelection. They had seen or already experienced destruction during the summer, when George Floyd’s and other Black people’s death at the hands — or knees — of police officers set off both legitimate protests and outright violent riots and looting. Now that Washington, D.C., has become a militarized zone because of the violence that descended on the Capitol building itself — with both houses of Congress present — we know that violence is a bipartisan problem. It’s a poison in our national bloodstream. And it’s taken on a new, dangerous life.

There must be necessary consequences to all violent lawbreaking. Which is why we need to examine what all this violence says about who we have become as a people.

Federal Executions

The Trump administration brought back federal executions, which a Biden administration will mercifully reverse. We should be haunted by some of the recent executions. Yes, the executed criminals were convicted of heinous murders. But in some cases, the executed people were mentally ill people who had never known anything but the violence of abuse, rape and abandonment. These aren’t excuses, but they should be alarms to do better for our nation’s children.

Violent Entertainment

And while we’re doing this examination of the heightened violent tendencies in our midst, the entertainment we consume matters. If it’s all violence and death, that becomes a part of us. It doesn’t cause someone to wake up one morning, get on a plane and storm the Capitol building or loot a Best Buy under the guise of protesting racial injustice, but it does desensitize us to just how evil it is to hurt, kill or dehumanize someone.


And we absolutely have to address abortion in a different way than we have been doing. This is the most intimate violence there is. If women only knew how many opponents of abortion pray for those who have had abortions — and not in any kind of judgmental way. We know there’s anguish. There is often so much fear and a loss of freedom. It’s so often the opposite of what the rhetoric suggests.

If we are going to “heal” as a nation, as Joe Biden suggests he was elected to help us do, Biden must consider taking a new kind of position on abortion. Pope Francis himself has repeatedly said that abortion is not a religious issue, it’s a human-rights issue. It’s wrong because it takes a life and destroys the most natural bond there is — the one between mother and child. Abortion kills human life and it’s killing us.

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We are a nation that is finding it more and more difficult to come together for the common good. Our differences are making it harder to unite around anything. So we board up windows and barricade government buildings for fear of what people might do, believing the worst about institutions, leaders and our neighbors. When we pressure women to deny the humanity of the child in her womb, who and what can we trust?

There are so many elements to the problems ailing the hearts of our nation, but we’d be delusional to ignore the long-term consequences of abortion on our culture. When we throw away our most vulnerable, we’ll seek to throw away elections, opponents and everyone we’ve come to perceive as an enemy in any way. Consider our rhetoric, consider our politics-as-pseudoreligion, consider our laws and protocols that say that those who are most vulnerable are less than human.

What is Worth Preserving

We don’t have to be an angry, violent people. If we rid ourselves of unnecessary violence and death, we may be able to begin again to see what’s worth preserving — the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution have some thoughts, for starters.


Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review magazine and author of the new book A Year With the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living. She is also chair of Cardinal Dolan’s pro-life commission in New York. She can be contacted at [email protected].

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