I envision a day—perhaps not that far in the future—when Donald Trump and his doofus-y name are radioactive, not just to the decent people of the world but to a wide swath of Republicans, too. Will that happen? I’m trying to be an optimist, so I say yes. Trump himself is doing his best to make that reality come to pass.
Of course, in the wake of Jan. 6, far more hardbitten cynics than I (I know it sounds impossible, but they’re out there) no doubt thought Trump was—at long last—shit on toast. He couldn’t recover from this, could he? Ah, but these gimlet-eyed observers vastly underestimated the GOP’s pusillanimity. After House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy flew down to Mar-a-Lago to do 108 full prostrations before his slovenly Buddha, the floodgates opened and Trump was on his way to being fully embraced, once again, by the Republican rank-and-file.
That capitulation to indecency came to a head late last month when Senate Republicans decided to filibuster the bill that would have created a bipartisan Jan. 6 commission. Republicans “won” the vote 35-54—meaning 19 more senators wanted to advance the bill than wanted to scuttle it. (Yay, filibuster!)
Perhaps no one was more horrified by that outcome than Sandra Garza, the longtime partner of Brian Sicknick, a Capitol police officer who died in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. And now she’s speaking up.
In a CNN op-ed, Garza, a clinical social worker who was with Sicknick for 11 years, wrote that she couldn’t watch the Jan. 6 footage for a month after the attack, but eventually gutted it out and took a look.
But before his memorial a month later, something came over me: I wanted to see everything I could and understand what happened that day. As I watched the videos, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I saw officers being brutalized and beaten, and protesters defying orders to stay back from entering the Capitol. All the while, I kept thinking, “Where is the President? Why is it taking so long for the National Guard to arrive? Where is the cavalry!?”
As the months passed, my deep sadness turned to outright rage as I watched Republican members of Congress lie on TV and in remarks to reporters and constituents about what happened that day. Over and over they denied the monstrous acts committed by violent protesters.
Garza didn’t name those members of Congress, but they’re not hard to identify. There was Sen. Ron Johnson, who said he was never concerned about the insurrection because the rioters were “people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement”—and not scary antifa or Black Lives Matter protesters. There was Rep. Andrew Clyde, who compared the insurrectionists to tourists, even though footage from that day showed him fixin’ to drop a chimichanga or two into his Simon Bar Sinister Underoos. And there was Trump himself, who infamously said that the insurrection posed “zero threat” and that his supporters were “hugging and kissing” the Capitol police.
Eventually, Garza joined Sicknick’s mother, Gladys, in her campaign to convince GOP senators to vote in favor of the commission. But as we all know, their heartfelt pleas were ignored. Garza writes that during her and Gladys’ outreach campaign, “some Republican senators were very pleasant and polite. Others were dismissive, and others could barely hide their disdain.”
Sounds about right. Of course, in the wake of Republicans’ nearly unanimous betrayal of democracy, Garza feels she’s being retraumatized.
By denying or downplaying the viciousness and trauma that occurred on January 6, members of Congress and the people who continue echoing their false narrative are engaging in a specific kind of psychological harm that is familiar to people who work in mental health. It’s known as “secondary wounding.” Secondary wounding, described by psychologist Aphrodite Matsakis, occurs when people “minimize or discount the magnitude of the event, its meaning to the victim, [or] its impact on the victim’s life.”
The kicker? Before the Capitol insurrection, both Garza and Sicknick—who adored blueberry pancakes and wiener dogs alike—were Trump supporters. Not anymore: “To know that some members of Congress—along with the former President, Donald Trump, who Brian and I once supported but who can only now be viewed as the mastermind of that horrible attack—are not acknowledging Brian’s heroism that day is unforgivable and un-American.”
Eventually, anyone who puts their faith in Donald Trump gets burned. Ask … well, pretty much anyone. Most people don’t suffer this much for their obtuseness, but just about everyone who hitches their wagon to his collapsing star gets a rude awakening.
It’s sad that it took the loss of a loved one for Garza to finally wake up, but if she can keep warning others, maybe the day when Trump is truly—and forever—radioactive will come sooner rather than later.
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