I’m guessing you probably don’t remember Sgt Ladavid T. Johnson. I can’t blame you. I’m sorry to say I’d forgotten about him too. He was killed in October of 2017 when his unit, stationed in Niger, was ambushed by fifty “Isis” thugs.
He was a family man who loved his wife, his two children (whose names were tattooed on his chest), riding bicycles and serving his country. When he was killed Johnson’s third child was due in January of 2018.
Shortly before Johnson’s body arrived at Miami airport his wife Myeshia got a “condolence” call from then “president” Donald Trump. It was during that call that Trump reportedly told the grieving widow that her husband “knew what he was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway.” Yes, he actually said that.
Sgt Johnson’s widow wasn’t alone. She was accompanied by her mother and Frederica Wilson, the Democratic Congresswoman who represented the widow’s Florida district. Everybody heard the call. It was on speakerphone. Everybody was aghast.
According to the Congresswoman, Trump was unable to recall the Sergeant’s name during his conversation with his widow. “[Myeshia Johnson] was crying the whole time,” Wilson later recounted, “and when she hung up the phone, she looked at me and said, ‘He didn’t even remember his name.’ That’s the hurting part.”
When confronted by the account of the call in the White House Cabinet Room Trump sat with his arms folded like a petulant child and vigorously denied the whole thing. He claimed that the Congresswoman (and, by implication, Johnson’s widow and her mother) was lying and that “everybody knows” she was lying. He claimed he had proof that she was lying, proof that he didn’t say what was claimed. When a reporter asked for the proof, Trump said they should talk to the Congresswoman first. To this day Trump still hasn’t revealed his “proof.”
I reproduce this account for your consideration. It isn’t the most heartless thing Trump has ever done, but it’s worth remembering all the same. We should remember it before it gets lost in all the other horrendous things this monster has done because it’s about grieving human beings who lost a loved one, a loved one who served his country with dignity, honour, and ultimate sacrifice, and he and they deserve to be remembered.
But it’s also an object lesson in how far Republicans have fallen since the compassionate founder of their party, Abraham Lincoln, walked the earth. Lincoln was a man who endured unbelievable hardship during his presidency, including loss of a child, but still had time to display magnificent compassion for others similarly suffering.
We can’t expect every president to be as eloquent as Lincoln, but we have every right to demand they be as human. Of the forty five men who have occupied the office of the presidency since the founding of our republic, only one was a monster. And he still is. This is one small reminder of that indisputable fact. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.