Politics & Policy

Tucson and Us

Our culture of senseless violence

‘It is with a heavy heart that I write to you about the senseless violence in Tucson today,” EMILY’s List president Stephanie Schriock wrote as so many of us turned to Arizona and prayed for the survival of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. We prayed for Giffords, the 19 other people killed or wounded, and all those who were affected by the bloodshed. We gave thanks to God for the brave people who kept the attack from being even bloodier.

The tragedy in Tucson was a jarring confrontation with evil. For Tucson. For Congress. For voters. A child, Christina Green, who was interested in government at a young age, was murdered. A judge, John Roll, coming from Saturday-morning Mass, was killed. You know so many of the stories by now.

There were prayers. But there was also a lot of noise. Fingers pointed. Accusations made. More reflection may be in order.

More reflection is in order.

Rhetorically, it got ugly. I was watching as supposed protectors of civility were at their most uncivil. And I was watching, too, whom most of their incivility was aimed at — Sarah Palin, a person who shouldn’t have been part of the story but was dragged into it. The president of the National Organization for Women was among those who led the angry attacks, presuming that if a Democrat had been shot, the bullets must have come from the Right. But there was no evidence of this at the time, and the evidence we have now indicates that mental illness, not politics, was the cause.

And then I received the press release from EMILY’s List, which exists to support female candidates who support legal abortion. Representative Giffords is one of its women. I saw Planned Parenthood’s, too.

It was completely coincidental, but when I went back to Planned Parenthood’s website later in the week, “Accidents Happen” were the words that jumped out at me.

They jumped out at me and brought me back to former speaker Nancy Pelosi. After the attack, she stood on the House floor and said: “A tragic accident took lives, wounded people in the free expression of ideas.”

But it wasn’t an accident.

As Schriock wrote and we all know, “a gunman attacked Cong. Gabby Giffords, her staff, and constituents at a public event. . . .  Congresswoman Giffords is fighting for her life, following a bullet entering her brain at close range.”

Schriock went on to explain: “I have read your emails and letters about her, how inspired you all have been by Gabby. She blazed into our lives as the youngest woman ever elected to the Arizona State Senate, and we all rejoiced with her when she won a congressional seat that had been held by Republicans for twenty years.”

I couldn’t help thinking of other letters. Letters I’ve been reading for years from mothers who have aborted their babies, often having felt they had little or no support in their struggle to fight for their child’s life. Women who know that they did, in fact, end a life. If only they had had the support. If only they hadn’t had running through their minds the talking points of a feminist movement intent on telling them that choosing to end a child’s life is fine. If only they hadn’t had the moral cover provided by a culture of death — which includes, in no small way, the law of our land.

Schriock also wrote, “Today, I’m reminded of our responsibility to love our neighbors, and to take care of each other.”

Gabby Giffords was shot days after a press conference held by the Chiaroscuro Foundation to highlight the outrageously high abortion rate in New York City (41 percent). NARAL Pro-Choice New York, a branch of another one of the abortion-rights groups that issued loving statements in support of Representative Giffords, blasted the press conference and the religious leaders who took part in it: “These men continue to meddle in women’s lives and preach a gospel of shame and stigma while seeking to ban or otherwise limit access to abortion.”

But the real news of the press conference was not that New York is the abortion capital of the world — that was already well known. The real news was that Catholic archbishop Timothy Dolan was enthusiastically renewing a pledge that the Catholic Church in New York would help any and every mother who sought its aid in bringing her child into the world. He was taking his responsibility as a shepherd, as a father, as a leader, loving his neighbors, taking care.

Back to EMILY’s List. Schriock wrote, “In the face of violence, we at EMILY’s List stand committed to continued service, and to a country that decries violence and embraces steadfast leadership like that of Cong. Giffords.”

God bless Representative Giffords and her family. Her survival is an inspirational marvel, and the prayers of EMILY’s List and everyone else are uplifting gifts.

The groups that I’ve quoted and others fundamentally disagree with me and believe abortion should be legal. But in the face of violence, it’s hard to get beyond the fact that we’re actually not a country that decries violence against our most innocent. EMILY’s List does not. Schriock’s statement demands further reflection.

The Tucson tragedy was perpetrated by a sick man. But all this civility talk we’ve been hearing is dishonest unless we reflect upon our culture of “senseless violence.” If you truly believe in “choice,” make sure every woman knows how to make the choice to have her child, an unplanned joy — for her or for an adoptive family that is open and able to love that human life.

Abortion is a violence we should open our eyes to see and stop rather than keeping quiet and accepting it. It’s one that a civil society can work to stop. Peacefully, with love and support.

Kathryn Jean Lopez is an editor-at-large of National Review Online. She can be reached at klopez@nationalreview.com. This column is available exclusively through United Media.

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