The various kneeling protestors in the NFL have been discussed ad nauseam at this point, no doubt. Some of the more recent events within the Trump administration, along with the President’s continued attempts to rebrand the protest as something it is not has prompted me to write yet another piece to throw onto the pile.
For those that don’t know me I am a Veteran of the United States Army where I was active duty for nearly 5 years. I, personally, have never taken this protest as a personal affront to me or to my brothers and sisters. I’ve always been of the persuasion that any and all protest, from any side, should be welcomed so long as it 1) does not harm anyone else and 2) does not needlessly inconvenience others (such as standing on the freeway preventing people from getting to their jobs.) Even if I wasn’t of that opinion when it comes to protest I feel that it is an enormous stretch to get “disrespectful to the troops” out of this protest. The reason behind Kaepernick originally kneeling (as opposed to sitting, as he did at the start) has been well documented and well shared. If you haven’t read about it here’s a quick link: https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/heres-how-nate-boyer-got-colin-kaepernick-to-go-from-sitting-to-kneeling/. In short, an Army Veteran named Nate Boyer asked Kaep to kneel as opposed to sitting as to not be disrespectful to the troops. Kaepernick obliged this request immediately. It’s clear his intention was not ever to be disrespectful to the military, but we live in a world of hyper-sensitivity and people are erroneously taking this as a slight against the military anyway.
Enter Trump and his league of followers. For five straight weeks Trump has tweeted about people kneeling in the NFL. It seems to be his favorite target to stay on at this point, endlessly claiming that it’s disrespectful to the troops and to the country. Many conservatives, not all by any means, and just about all of Trump’s fans continue to repeat this, ignoring the reason behind why Kaep knelt instead sat and the entire reasoning behind the protest itself. Trump, along with the people who continue to support him, is what irks me the most about this “disrespectful to the troops” narrative, especially after the last week.
Trump has done a number of things that any reasonable person could construe as being disrespectful to the troops along the way. He insinuated that his schooling was akin to basic combat training or boot camp. He attacked a gold star family in the Khan’s. He stated that he prefers Veterans that “weren’t caught,” yet his followers haven’t taken down their POW/MIA flags. Over the course of the last couple of weeks though his actions have been especially egregious.
On October 4th four Green Berets, Staff Sergeant Bryan Black, Staff Sergeant Jeremiah Johnson, Staff Sergeant Dustin Wright and Sergeant La David Johnson, were all killed in combat in Niger. It took Trump nearly two weeks to contact any of these men’s families regarding their deaths. In that time he spread the lie that previous presidents didn’t call the families of fallen service members. He lied and said he didn’t have the time to do it, despite continuing to golf at unprecedented rates. He did eventually call the families though and that’s where things really went off the rails.
A number of people witnessed the call to Sergeant La David Johnson’s widow, Myeshia Johnson, who is 6 months pregnant, and professed that Trump was disrespectful regarding Sergeant Johnson. Firstly, he stated that Sergeant Johnson “knew what he signed up for,” using similar wording along that line. I don’t take issue with this, Sergeant Johnson did know what he signed up for. So did his wife and his parents. Nobody is debating that. The issue is that stating that in a condolence call is hugely inappropriate. The family of Sergeant Johnson don’t need a reminder that his job was dangerous, they know that, they just lost him to it. They needed reassurance that it will be ok. That he will be avenged. That his sacrifice is acknowledged.
Sergeant Johnson’s family needed reassurance from the Commander In Chief that his sacrifice was acknowledged. Instead they got a reminder that his job was dangerous coupled with a President that couldn’t be bothered to remember his name, much less be bothered to have it written down accessible to him while on the call. Do you think they feel that his sacrifice is truly acknowledged by the President, a man that couldn’t remember his name? I don’t. And what’s more is Trump is now calling a pregnant widow a liar for saying he couldn’t remember her husband’s name.
Whether or not you believe her (even though her side is widely corroborated and the other side has a penchant for falsehoods) is honestly irrelevant. Making these tough calls is part of his job and with his twitter attack of Myeshia Trump failed. Full stop. There isn’t much that I can think of that’s more disrespectful to our military than our CIC not being able to remember a slain service member’s name and then getting in a Twitter spat with his widow. It’s unimaginable. It’s no way that a leader should act and if you’re still standing beside him after this I can’t take you seriously when you profess that you want people to stand as to not be disrespectful to the military.
With the way this NFL protest has blown up recently, and the way many of the people upset by that protest continue to stand by Trump after his handling of Myeshia Johnson, it’s clear to me that it isn’t really about respecting the military (I mean, I was pretty sure it wasn’t before this as well but man, does this solidify it) but instead is an attempt to further their armchair patriotism and silence any dissent from their chosen messiah.