Republicans and Democrats came together on April 9 to honor the brave men and women of the Wisconsin National Guard who recently served our country on the southern border.
They sacrificed their holidays so troops who had been defending our border could take time off to be with their families. I felt inspired by them and proud to be an American from Wisconsin as I heard their stories.
In the Assembly Chambers that day, we weren’t Democrats or Republicans — we were Americans.
A few days ago, La Crosse County Republican Party Chairman Bill Feehan became the only person in the state to turn that event into a partisan hit. By falsely claiming that I and other Democrats disrespected members of the National Guard, he, in fact, was the one who showed disrespect.
Four times during the ceremony, Republicans and Democrats alike gave our National Guard members standing ovations. Beyond that, there were numerous times we interrupted the speaker with rounds of applause.
Unfortunately, there was one moment that the speaker wandered into partisan territory, and Democrats chose not to stand. It was clear by the looks on the faces of some of the Guard members that they were uncomfortable that politics was interjected by the speaker.
I could see their reactions — I sit in the front row.
I remember to this day a lesson I learned in fifth grade at St. James School on the North Side of La Crosse. Sister Delores, while teaching us about the 10 Commandments, said, “A lie is saying something not true; but a lie is also not telling the whole truth.”
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When Feehan posted a picture of Democrats sitting for one moment during the Guard ceremony, he wasn’t telling the whole truth. When he said that Democrats didn’t stand during the ceremony, he wasn’t telling the whole truth. Now, in his Tribune column, when he says that “Democrats did rise at the end for a moment of applause,” he isn’t telling the whole truth.
Read his column again and try to come away with any impression that Democrats did anything but sit on our hands, sulking.
Feehan says that “democracy dies in darkness.” I would respond by saying that our democracy is based on liberty — but not liberty from the truth.
Feehan posted a picture and an edited clip from the ceremony. That’s all he wanted you to see. However, I want you to see the whole thing. Take a few minutes and go to the Wisconsin Eye website. The relevant portion starts at 1:10:30 into the video. Afterward, let me know if you see even one sign of disrespect for our Guard members in between the wild cheering and applause from members of both parties.
I am proud of our Wisconsin National Guard. In fact, I invited the Guard member from my district to lunch in my office after the ceremony.
I also am proud of and thankful for all those who protect us — soldiers, sailors, police officers, firefighters. They put their lives on the line for us every day. We should not disrespect their service by making them pawns in a partisan grudge match.
Fortunately, there is only one person in our entire state who thinks otherwise.