This past Tuesday, December 6, the Capitol Hill Police officers who battled enraged mobs on January 6, 2021 received Congressional Gold Medals – the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. Congress to individuals and institutions for distinguished achievements and contributions. They certainly deserve them.
Among the recipients was the late Brian Sicknick, an Air Force veteran whose family accepted on his behalf. Sicknick suffered a stroke amidst the chaos of January 6 and died the next day. But something curious happened on Tuesday.
Sicknick’s family refused to shake hands with leaders of the Republican Party – Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. Kevin McCarthy. It wasn’t because they’re die-hard Democrats (what are often called “yellow dog” Democrats in Texas; meaning someone would rather vote for a yellow dog than a Republican) and certainly not merely to cause a ruckus. To them it was a matter of “integrity”.
Integrity is an attribute that has been lacking in American politics for decades. What little of it remained in Washington in January of 2017 was obliterated by Donald Trump and his supporters. Like many Americans Sicknick’s family is disgusted with the GOP leadership as a whole; particularly their failure (unwillingness) to stand up to Trump and call out his repulsive behavior. Trump’s disrespect for entire groups of people, discombobulated verbiage and other incendiary acts culminated in the horror of January 6 – a truly unprecedented event in American history.
While it may seem petty, even childish, on their part, I’m glad the Sicknicks decided not to be painfully polite and shake the hands of McConnell and McCarthy. Craig Sicknick, one of Brian’s brothers, expressed no qualms about his family’s decision. “I really do not hold respect for people who have no integrity,” he said. “Which is what – this is not a partisan issue, this is an integrity issue. They took an oath to defend and uphold the Constitution. And when somebody challenges it, like Trump, they do nothing. Their silence is deafening. Or worse they keep perpetrating the same policies and lies that caused the insurrection to happen.”
Previously McConnell has condemned Trump’s actions, but McCarthy has visited the former president at his Mar-a-Lago estate several times over the past year. Conservatives frequently criticized former President Bill Clinton for his varied sexual indiscretions and even tried to remove him from office for one such liaison. But, when Trump arrived on the scene with his third wife and a slew of even more reprehensible follies, they suddenly seemed to enter a forgiving state of mind. Moreover, they let Trump reconfigure the entire Republican Party into a circus of hate and violence.
It’s also worth noting that 21 Republicans voted against granting any of those officers Congressional Gold Medals last year. One, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, explained that he was bothered by the use of the term “insurrectionists” to describe the rioters.
“I think if we call that an insurrection, it could have a bearing on their case that I don’t think would be good,” Massie said, later adding, “If they just wanted to give the police recognition, they could have done it without trying to make it partisan, without sticking that in there.”
Partisan? Really? Hearing Republicans complain about partisanship is like hearing a drug addict complain about a friend’s alcoholism.
Integrity does matter. The Capitol Hill police officers displayed it unrelentingly on January 6. We need more of it across the world.