The Hatred and Violence Must Stop

“How do you like this new democracy, that has a mob storming the Capitol and…blocking the access of the majority party into their offices and into the legislative chamber? It looks more like anarchy to me.”

“…cameras caught protesters storming the Capitol – breaking doors and windows – in a last-ditch push to protest and possibly block the vote.”

Those are not descriptions of the ugliness that transpired in the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday.

Rather, they are about the forcible takeover of the Wisconsin statehouse in March of 2011 by protesters trying to prevent a vote on then-Gov. Scott Walker’s reform proposals regarding public sector unions.  

Protesters carried placards proclaiming, “This is what democracy looks like.”

But mob rule is not democracy. It is an attack on democracy—whether it was the union mobs in Wisconsin ten years ago, the Trump-supporting mobs that invaded the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, or the antifa and Black Lives Matter mobs that have been rioting across America’s cities for months.

One must not, of course, understate the unique, and uniquely dangerous, nature of Wednesday’s violent, deadly attack on the seat of our nation’s democracy. It should be, and is being, universally condemned.

But neither should we understate the danger to our democracy posed by the continuing violence of left-wing rioters, who over the past eight months have been smashing and looting businesses, setting ablaze mostly poor, minority inner city neighborhoods, assaulting police, menacing public officials in restaurants, and terrorizing their families at home—as they did just the other night to the wife and newborn daughter of Sen. Josh Hawley.

For just as our Catholic Church is not only the church building in which we celebrate the sacred Eucharist, but encompasses all of us as the body of Christ called to live and evangelize the Word, so American democracy is not only the Capitol building, but encompasses all of us as American citizens, called to live and promote the ideals of freedom by respecting the lives, liberty, and property of others. And so our democracy is endangered whenever and wherever those ideals come under violent attack by American citizens. And truth be told, these left-wing rioters have not received the same universal condemnation that the pro-Trump rioters at the Capitol rightly have.

Supporters insist that all these protests have been “mostly peaceful,” that the violent aggressors at the Capitol Wednesday and the violent rioters in our cities have been just small fringes. True or not, that does not negate the terrible destructiveness they are doing, to life, to property, and to our system of ordered liberty and self-government. Not to mention the harm they are doing to the very causes they claim to support.

For example, there was growing momentum for responsible reforms in law enforcement following the horrific police killing of George Floyd last spring. But that momentum has largely faded amid the violence and rioting, the anti-cop overkill, and the frightening nationwide spike in violent crime that resulted.   

Similarly, following the November elections many Americans have legitimate concerns about the integrity of the voting process, particularly given the unprecedented level of mail-in ballots, susceptible as they are to human error, vote harvesting, and outright fraud. And while the presidential election was not going to be overturned, the objections and debate which were to be heard in Congress last Wednesday could have been the impetus for examining those concerns and, if need be, developing possible reforms for future elections. Now, any hope for such scrutiny has been lost amid the violence and chaos of the mob.  

All of the violence has got to stop. I’m reminded of my third-grade teacher berating me and a friend as she broke up one of our “play” fights. “I don’t care who started it,” she scolded (it was always my friend, of course, not me), “the next time you two are fighting you’re both going to the principal’s office!”

That’s the point we have reached now. It doesn’t matter which side is worse, which more to blame, even which may have been treated more unfairly. While healthy and spirited debate and disagreement are essential to our democratic system, the hatred and violence on all sides must end.

Calls for instant “unity” seem overly simplistic. The deep divisions which sear our country right now involve some fundamental issues of justice and morality that are not easily amenable to compromise. Even Christ emphasized that He had come “not to establish peace on the earth” but rather “division.”

But the division He sought to create was to help us distinguish right from wrong, that we might ultimately choose good over evil and then strive to lead others to do so as well. He did not intend for us to descend into the evils of hatred and violence, which He always rejected, warning that those “who live by the sword will perish by the sword.”  

We must now, while standing firm in defense of those moral principles we hold to be right and just, do so as Jesus would—peacefully, exuding His love and mercy—lest our democracy perish in the flames of hatred and violence.  

Published by Rick Hinshaw

I have spent the last three decades in primarily Catholic communications work: as a reporter, news editor, columnist, and for eight years editor of The Long Island Catholic; several years as co-host and co-producer of The Catholic Forum program on the diocesan Telecare channel; two stints as Director of Communications for the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights; and a year as Associate Director for Communications at the New York State Catholic Conference. I also served for three years as Public Information Officer for the late Nassau County District Attorney Denis Dillon, a staunchly Catholic and active pro-life leader. Over that more than 30-year career, I have gained an ever deeper understanding of and appreciation for the moral and social teachings of our Church. In my various roles I have lent my voice to articulating those teachings and their applicability to the critical issues of our time. That is what I intend to do with this blog. Moreover, at a time when our political and social disagreements seem to have degenerated into constant vitriol, vilification, verbal abuse and intolerance of those who hold differing opinions, I hope that this blog can contribute, in some small way, to a restoration of respectful debate and discussion, where we can defend our beliefs forcefully without demonizing any who disagree with us. As a Catholic commentator, that is what I have always striven to do--remembering that even as we are called to stand firmly in defense of our Church, her teachings, and our right to be heard in the public square, we are also called always to be the face of Christ to the world--most especially to those with whom we disagree.

7 thoughts on “The Hatred and Violence Must Stop

  1. Well said Rick. I don’t think anytime in our history except our Civil War has been so contentious. I can only suggest intense prayer and openness to the Holy Spirit to restore honesty and civility.

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    1. Thank you, Walter, and your suggestions are right on target. The problem for us, of course, is not to let our revulsion to violence discourage us from strong but peaceful advocacy on critical moral issues. While we must deplore violence in service to any cause, we cannot allow our firm but peaceful efforts, especially to defend life, to be falsely conflated with violence in order to stifle our voices. But to your point, all that we do must be done in prayer, entrusting our work into God’s hands and asking His guidance.

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  2. Rick – this is an incredibly disingenuous piece, even for you. To not even mention that the violence was incited by President Trump, who has incited hatred and violence ever since he announced his campaign in 2015, is just wrong. What made the attack on the Capitol building unique, and very different from the Wisconsin analogy you grasp at, is that this attack was incited and encouraged by the very person who is supposed to be defending the Constitution and our democracy. This followed his incitement of people to attack the statehouse in Michigan when he tweeted “Liberate Michigan.” And I am disgusted by your statement about “legitimate concerns” about the election and that the debate in Congress on January 6 could have been used to examine those concerns. January 6 was supposed to be a formality, the Electoral College votes had already been counted. The formality was hijacked by a bunch of pandering politicians who were complicit with the President in telling people a Big Lie, which you seem to be feeding into, about a stolen election. The best way right now to stop the hatred and violence that manifested itself on January 6 is to remove those politicians. On January 6, we know which side was worse, and those people need to be held accountable before it is too late.

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    1. Thank you, Bernie, your name-calling diatribe is a timely reminder that while some of us strive for balance, when it comes to political passions others are unwilling or unable to ever see the motes in the eyes of their own partisans.

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      1. Rick – the only “name-calling” I did was to use the term “pandering politicians.” If you really think that Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz were raising legitimate concerns about the election on January 6, and were not pandering to Trump loyalists in spreading the Big Lie, then you are unwilling or unable to recognize facts.

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  3. How about, “incredibly disingenuous, even for you”? Bernie, I am happy to engage in reasonable, RESPECTFUL dialogue and debate with you. But I will not descend into the dirt, engaging in mudslinging and personal insults, a la Trump, Pelosi et al., which you seem rather comfortable doing. So unless you can raise the level of your discourse, I am not gong to further engage with you. I’ll just let your angry diatribes speak for themselves.

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    1. Rick – I’m sorry that I offended you by my use of the word disingenous, and I will refrain from doing that in the future. But the reason I used that word is that it describes someone who is not being candid or sincere. I was struck that you were not being candid about why the “Trump-supporting mobs stormed the Capitol.” We know that it was because they were incited by Trump, and you did not specifically condemn his behavior. So I question whether you are really sincere about wanting to stop hatred and violence. I prefer debating facts and engaging in a high level of discourse, but you have not addressed or disputed any of the points I raised about Trump’s incitement of hatred and violence since 2015, his incitement of the attack on the Michigan statehouse, or about the spreading of the Big Lie by Hawley and Cruz. I believe it is important to have a dialogue that is based on a reasonable discussion of the facts, which are right in front of us if we are willing to see them.

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