Sunday, October 22, 2017

"He was doing exactly what he wanted to do"...

As Bill and I were driving to the restaurant where we had dinner last night, we were talking some more about this whole fiasco between Donald Trump, General John Kelly, and the late La David Johnson's family.  If you've been following along, you may remember that I wrote about my thoughts about Trump's insensitive phone call to La David Johnson's widow.  Today's rantings are about another key phrase that I've heard in the wake of Trump's call.

Trump's White House Chief of Staff, former Marine General John Kelly, explained in a speech to the press what happens when a servicemember dies in combat.  General Kelly, being a very experienced Marine, has no doubt seen this process firsthand more than a few times.  In 2010, General Kelly's own son, 29 year old Marine First Lieutenant Robert Kelly, was killed in action when he stepped on a landmine in Afghanistan.  So Kelly has himself been through the process of being told about a loved one's death.  In his speech to Americans, he explained that his casualty officer was his best friend, Joe Dunford.  And Dunford apparently said something along the lines of this:

Kel, he was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1 percent. He knew what the possibilities were because we’re at war.

It seems to me that if you are two guys in the military, brothers in arms, as it were, it would make sense to say something like what General Kelly's friend and casualty officer said.  People who serve in the military understand that there is risk when a war is going on.  They can talk to each other the business of war because they have a concept of it.  They understand the job; they've been through the training and indoctrination; and saying something like "He was doing exactly what he wanted to do..." makes sense.  However, I don't think the same thing is true for family members of the fallen.  

In this case, it was Myeshia Johnson, La David Johnson's widow, who heard a version of those words.  Myeshia Johnson is the mother of two small children and is pregnant with a third, due in January.  She was supportive of her husband's decision to join the Army, but, like many spouses, she told her husband to come back to her.  I know I did the same thing when Bill went to Iraq.  I told him if he got killed, I'd be coming after him.  Actually, I told him that I'd be coming after BOTH him and his narcissistic boss, to whom I had just warned NOT to get my husband killed.  To his credit, Bill's boss took my threat seriously.  I was half kidding at the time, but apparently most wives didn't talk to the colonel that way.

Mrs. Johnson works at Walmart as a cashier.  She's pregnant.  She has two little kids, a six year old girl and a two year old boy.  How does it sound to a young wife and a mother when the president continually refers to her dead husband as "your guy"? How does it sound when the president tells this young mom that her husband "knew what he was signing up for" and then adds, "he was doing exactly what he wanted to do"?

I don't know about Myeshia Johnson, but to me, it would sound like the president was saying my husband would rather be in a war zone or a far away country in Africa than at home with me and our family.  Even if there was a grain of truth to that statement, it was hurtful.  Aside from that, there's a good chance Johnson actually wasn't doing what he wanted to be doing.  The fact is, no one knows if Johnson was "doing exactly what he wanted to do."  Perhaps we could assume he loved his job but, as perfect strangers, we don't know that for sure.  What if he was in the Army for reasons other than simply being attracted to the work?

When Joe Dunford told General Kelly that his son was "doing exactly what he wanted to do", he was probably speaking the truth.  Kelly's son probably had plenty of other opportunities he could have pursued if he'd preferred them over military service.  Robert Kelly's father was a high ranking Marine officer, so he knew what the lifestyle is all about.  It was probably in his blood to want to join the military.

My own husband, Bill, has told me he was attracted to the Army because he longed for belonging to something bigger than himself.  He liked the ideas of service and discipline.  It also didn't hurt that he got ROTC scholarships that helped pay for his education at a very expensive private university.  He did still have to take out some loans, but he was a lot less indebted than he could have been.  Bill's parents weren't in a position to help him pay for school and the Army helped him achieve the goal of earning a bachelor's degree.  It also helped him earn and pay for two master's degrees.  Fortunately, Bill did love the Army most of the time, but he knows that not everyone in the military is there simply because that's where they want to be.

I really don't know why La David Johnson joined the military.  For all I know, he might have truly loved what he was doing.  He might have been pleased as punch to be in Niger while his wife, children, and other loved ones were keeping the home fires burning.  Or maybe he was longing to get home to his wife and kids.  

I don't think Donald Trump knew that Sergeant Johnson was doing what he wanted to be doing.  I think that's the kind of statement that should be made by someone who knew the sergeant personally and knew his motives for joining the military.  I also think that's the kind of thing one says to someone who has a full understanding of what military service is all about and can relate to the sentiment.  His experience in a military prep school notwithstanding, Donald Trump has never served and doesn't have an inkling of what military service is about.  So he should not have made sweeping assumptions about why Johnson was serving and how he felt about his service.  He certainly shouldn't have said it to Johnson's bereaved widow.

Joe Dunford, General Kelly's best friend and casualty officer, was highly likely to be in a position to know Robert Kelly personally, as well as his attitudes about military service.  Dunford, Kelly, and Kelly's son were all military men and they had the benefit of knowing firsthand the experience of military service.  Dunford probably was telling the truth when he told Kelly that his son was "doing exactly what he wanted to do."  He probably knew for a fact the younger Kelly's feelings about serving in the Marines.

I think one of Trump's worst traits is that he is so extremely narcissistic that he has absolutely no empathy.  Because he has no empathy, it doesn't occur to him that he's not the best person to comfort the grieving.  He doesn't think about other people's feelings because he's fixated on his own.  It would have made sense for Trump to delegate that phone call to someone better equipped to handle it.  Trump is not good with words.  A true leader would realize that weakness and pass on the duty of comforting others to someone who could do it with grace and class.  But Trump is much too narcissistic and focused on his own legacy to realize that his legacy is already beyond fucked.  So he does a half-assed job trying to express condolences and then, when he screws it up, instead of simply apologizing, he throws a tantrum.  How very presidential.  

La David Johnson was laid to rest yesterday.  His devastated widow was there with the children and Sergeant Johnson's other loved ones.  Mrs. Johnson kissed her husband's casket goodbye as she clutched two folded American flags.

Trump, by contrast, was playing golf, as usual... and, ever classy, he posted on social media as mourners were preparing for the funeral...

What a tragic disaster this man is.


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