Donald Trump and Gen. Kelly speak different languages
How does an honorable soldier relate to a draft-dodger?
When Gen. John Kelly learned his son had been killed in combat the words he heard were, “He was doing what he most wanted to do.” Himself a warrior and lifelong military man, that told him his son had died honorably and well, falling to a fate every warrior risks.
Kelly coached Donald Trump to phrase his remarks to grieving widow Myeshia Johnson along those lines, but what she heard, we are told, was “He knew what he’d signed up for.”
That’s not entirely contradictory. “He was doing what he most wanted to do” and “He knew what he’d signed up for” may both apply to the fate of a professional soldier killed in the line of duty, though they could hardly be farther apart in emphasis or nuance.
The warrior Kelly heard words of honor, obedience and sacrifice. The widow Johnson heard the coldhearted description of a transaction.
Kelly’s life of service, discipline and risk translated news of his son’s death into the language of valor. No similar experience applies to Donald Trump, for the notion of sacrifice for the collective good seems never to have crossed his mind. He gloated that avoiding STDs was “my Vietnam,” and bragged that dodging taxes “means I’m smart.”
With no shared experience to draw upon, Trump was left to his own empathy in dealing with Myeshia Johnson. Unsurprisingly, it proved wholly inadequate.