Friday, October 20, 2017

"He knew what he signed up for..."

Bill was supposed to come home last night, but he missed his flight.  We knew that could be an issue, since he had a tight connection.  I think he said there was also a strike going on.  Air France comped him a hotel room at the CDG Ibis.  I should see him sometime today, just in time for the weekend.

We've had really beautiful weather this week.  It's been warmer than usual and very sunny.  I'm actually kind of looking forward to cold weather, but I'll take these beautiful sunny days, too.  Pretty soon, it'll be perpetually cloudy and rainy.  We'll probably get snow, as is still pretty typical in Germany, at least.

I have been watching the news, as I always do.  This week, it's been all about the Soldiers who were killed in Niger, particularly La David Johnson, whose widow was the unlucky recipient of a tone deaf phone call from the ever graceless and tactless Donald Trump.  Mrs. Myeshia Johnson, happened to be with her husband's mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, and Rep. Frederica S. Wilson, who is a Democrat from Johnson's home state of Florida.

Evidently, before Trump made his ill conceived phone call, he asked for advice from his chief of staff, former Marine General John Kelly.  Kelly gave Trump advice and, at least to me, it's apparent that Trump tried to frame his words in the way Kelly told him he should.  However, what actually came out was that Johnson "knew what he signed up for."

Let me tell you.  As an Army wife, I’ve heard that line many times whenever a spouse legitimately complains about the hardships of the military lifestyle.  It pisses me off, because really, how can anyone know?  Ditto for the people who say that to second spouses and stepparents.  It comes across as very insensitive, even when you aren't mourning a tragic loss like Mrs. Johnson and her family are right now.

In Trump's defense, it sounds to me like he wasn't deliberately being insensitive.  He just failed to frame that sentiment in a way that didn't come across as totally crass and cold-hearted.  It's hard to be empathetic when you have no empathy.  Trump doesn't have any empathy, which is why he failed at this important task that is part of his job.  He also failed to remember Johnson's name, and he kept referring to the fallen Soldier as "your guy" to Mrs. Johnson.  Personally, I think it's the least the president can do... learn the name of the person who has died in the line of duty before you speak to the family.  Write it down and say it more than once.  Don't just say "your guy."  Seems like common sense to me.

Rep. Wilson, who has a long history of community service to the youth of South Florida, was appalled by Trump's call and the reaction Mrs. Johnson had.  She spoke out, and rightfully so.  I don't believe she spoke out for political reasons, either.  She saw the damage wrought firsthand.

In 1993, Ms. Wilson started a program called 5,000 Role Models of Excellence.  It was targeted to at risk teenagers to help them prepare for college, vocational school, and the military.  La David Johnson was a graduate of that program.  So Ms. Wilson had an actual connection to La David Johnson and his family.  I don't know if she knew Johnson personally, but she did know he had benefitted from her program, a program she cared enough to establish for young people who might have otherwise chosen to go a different way than on the path to gainful employment.

I won't pretend that I know much about politics in Florida.  I have never lived in Florida and don't generally follow politics as a rule, current administration notwithstanding.  But even just reading a little bit about Ms. Wilson tells me that she has more of a heart for public service and her constituents in her big toenail than Trump has in his entire body.  While it's entirely possible that Ms. Wilson was trying to make this about politics, I don't get the sense that's what she's doing.  I think she genuinely cares about Johnson's family or, at the very least, has some empathy for them as fellow human beings.  Most people are capable of at least that much empathy, although apparently Trump isn't.

Perhaps if there's anything to learn from this incident, it's that anyone who loses a family member in a military or government operation should not take a condolences call from Trump.  He's only going to make things worse.

Now... as for whether or not Johnson "knew what he signed up for", I can only say that I'm certain that the vast majority of people who join the military know that they could get killed.  The same would be true for any profession that regularly involves situations that can put a person in danger.  However, I think it's wrong to imply that people who take dangerous jobs expect they'll be hurt or killed.  In fact, most people who are in the military today do NOT die in service (at least not at this point).

Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Brandon Friedman put it very plainly in a series of comments on Twitter.  While most anyone who works in a dangerous job knows there is a real possibility of death or injury, it's probably not necessarily something most of them expect on any given day.  The truth is, a person could get killed just mowing their lawn, even if they also happen to be in the Army.  That happened to a Soldier in Newport News, Virginia last year.

My husband went to work at the Pentagon on 9/11, probably thinking it would be just another day.  He had a desk job crunching numbers and, I know, he never expected that a plane would crash into the building where he was working.  His Army job, at that time, was no more dangerous than any desk jockey's job.  But a plane did crash into the Pentagon and his life was in danger, as was anyone's who happened to be in the vicinity of the Pentagon that day.  Amazingly enough, Bill faced more danger on that day, that should have been perfectly ordinary, than he did on any other day of his Army career, even during his time in Iraq.

Why people are trying to defend Trump's mindblowing incompetence is really beyond my comprehension.  Many of my conservative friends have posted General Kelly's comments as a means of explaining why Trump's condolences came across as so callous.  They keep trying to defend the indefensible.  One person even said that those of us who are calling Trump out ought to be "ashamed".  Sorry, I'm not feeling any shame.  I think many people are justifiably offended by and pissed off at Donald Trump, and they have every right to express their disgust.

So no... I don't think Johnson necessarily "knew what he signed up for".  I'm sure he had an inkling that he could die in action, but I doubt most people are truly prepared for something like that.  Moreover, while I'd like to think that Johnson loved what he was doing and was proud to die in service to his country, I have no way of knowing that for certain.  Only Johnson himself knew if the job was worth the ultimate sacrifice.  Now that he's dead, we'll never know for sure how he felt about it.  What we do know is that his widow and his mother and the children left behind are grieving.  Trump did not do anything to ease their suffering; in fact, he made things worse.  Trump did not serve the people, which is what his job, ultimately, comes down to.  He did not spare genuine consideration for anyone but himself.  That, in my opinion, is what is the most shameful.


  1. Once again you are spot on! This tragic loss that this family has suffered has now become part of the Trump circus. I think it's time that all those Trump supporters who want to "Make America great again" need to start by offering this family their heartfelt condolences and stop defending the boob. May God hold this family in the palm of His hand. May they find privacy to grieve and to heal. May God surround them with love.


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