Part 4—Who were Johnson (and others): On Wednesday morning, the New York Times presented a fascinating profile of the late La David Johnson, who died this month in Niger.
Are Miami Gardens and Carol City full of great kids? This profile helps us see that Johnson was very much one of those kids—indeed, that he seems to have been a remarkable person.
Somewhat ironically, the profile starts with a lament. "[M]any who knew the slain soldier now lament that Sergeant Johnson’s story has gotten lost amid the flurry of criticism and accusations" concerning a famous condolence call, the profile says early on. In hard-copy, the profile appeared beneath this headline, which has an ironic strain:
"A Phone Call's Overlooked Subject: A Sergeant Who'd Found His Way"
As it turns out, this particular overlooked subject had brilliantly found his way out of a challenging personal background. He seems to have done so thanks to a lot of help from his elders, and thanks to his own attributes.
Who the heck was La David Johnson? We think you're asking an excellent question! Once they started addressing that question, two Times writers started with this:
ALCINDOR AND PHILIPPS (10/25/17): The bitter back and forth [about that phone call] is a marked contrast to his life, which family, friends and fellow soldiers say was characterized by kindness and an optimism that allowed him to rise above a tough upbringing, when so much around him seemed set on keeping him down.Johnson's mother died when he was 5. His father was largely absent.
Sergeant Johnson, who was 25 when he died, grew up in a gritty suburb with some of the highest crime and poverty levels in Florida—one of its few distinctions was having one of the highest police “stop and frisk” rates in the country. He watched his mother suffer for years with tuberculosis before she died when he was 5 years old. His father was mostly absent. His sister said that while many of his peers dropped out of school and drifted into crime, Sergeant Johnson remained focused and upbeat...
Despite these circumstances, was Johnson focused, upbeat, optimistic? More on that to follow! For now, let's examine the "kindness" found in this striking story, much of which came from Johnson's elders:
ALCINDOR AND PHILIPPS: Sergeant Johnson lived with an aunt and then an uncle after his mother’s death and joined a mentoring program for young neighborhood boys, called the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project. Ms. Wilson, the founder of the program, remained close to the Johnson family and had accompanied his widow to greet his body when Mr. Trump called.His mother died when he was 5. But he was raised by an aunt and an uncle. Also, by a grandmother who "used to buy him" cars and trucks which he'd take apart and reassemble, according to his sister.
Frequent Facebook posts from 2010, the year he graduated from Miami Carol City Senior High School, and later show Sergeant Johnson’s life then largely consisted of shifts at Walmart, working out at the gym, going to church, cooking for his family and tricking out his green 1995 Toyota Corolla, adding neon lights and bone-shaking 15-inch speakers. “Small resume bout me,” he wrote on Facebook in 2012. “I don’t drink nor smoke, never got arrested, gotta job, got my own crib, got my own car, got my own music business, I love music.” He met his wife when he was 6 years old and later had her name tattooed across his chest.
“He always loved to have fun, laugh and joke around, and help others,” said Isaac Hodgeson, who was also in the mentoring program, and on the wrestling team with Sergeant Johnson.
He was also served by the mentoring program established by Rep. Frederica Wilson. We might think of that mentoring program as a version of Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Little League, 4-H—the kinds of programs that exist, all over the country, to serve boys from various backgrounds, with similar programs for girls.
To her eternal credit, Rep. Wilson made it a point to see that boys like La David Johnson were served in the way they deserved to be served. That said, it sounds this particular child brought a lot to the table:
ALCINDOR AND PHILIPPS (continuing directly): Posts from his life in Carol City also show he was stopped by the police repeatedly for little reason, but he never seemed to let it get him down. “Think Big. Think Positive. Think Smart. Think Beautiful,” he posted in 2012. That year he first tried to join the Army, but failed the language section aptitude test by a few points, according to a post. He studied and eventually passed.“Think Big. Think Positive. Think Smart. Think Beautiful?” Through some blend of temperament and helpful upbringing by good people, Johnson was recommending this approach in 2012, when he was 20 years old.
Because Sgt. Johnson's wife has been a central part of this story, it might be worth sampling the Times' portrait of Johnson's family life. Presumably, the help he received along the way contributed to this:
ALCINDOR AND PHILIPPS: Soon after [joining the army, Johnson] met Sergeant [Dennis] Bohler and both men and their wives became friends. Sergeant Bohler, who now lives in Fort Lee in Virginia, remembers driving around for hours in 2014 as Sergeant Johnson looked for a home before he finally decided to live on base. Their families often ate Sunday dinners together, with both Sergeant Johnson and his wife cooking Thanksgiving-style meals of ham, macaroni and cheese, and pies.Sgt. Johnson was excited to learn he and his wife would be having a girl! In the larger sense, how much of his upbeat approach to life came out of that mentoring program?
The couples celebrated when both wives found out they were pregnant with girls and due a few days apart. Sergeant Johnson and his wife, due in January, quickly began planning for the new baby and for life with their other two children, a young girl and boy.
“When he found out they were having a girl, he was very excited. He had already named the baby,” Angiline Bohler said, adding that Sergeant Johnson didn’t see the mission in Niger as dangerous because his first deployment went smoothly.
There's no real way to know that, of course, in part because no one cares. If you've spent as much as ten minutes observing the work of our upper-end press, you may have noticed that these organizations don't care about people like Johnson, except to the extent that their lives can be used to reinforce prevailing, preferred tribal narratives, as has happened here.
Across the country, the wider population isn't told about children like the child this upbeat person once was. In our lofty liberal warrens, you haven't read a word about that profile of Johnson, and you never will.
That's because, unlike people like Rep. Wilson, we liberals don't care about kids like Johnson. Think of the things you've never heard on our liberal entertainment channel, MSNBC:
According to our only reliable data, kids like Johnson have made remarkable academic gains in the past few decades. But so what? Across the country, people have never heard that encouraging, admirable fact, in large part because the people who run our upper-class news orgs completely, manifestly don't care.
(Also, because certain powerful elites prefer a contrary narrative, in which "nothing has worked" in our public schools thanks to our ratty public school teachers and principals with their fiendish unions. Rep. Wilson, who founded that mentoring program, was one of those public school principals before she ran for office.)
It's a blindingly obvious fact; our upper-end journalistic elites don't care about children like La David Johnson, age 10. That doesn't mean that these elites are bad people. It means that, like everyone else, they're limited people, "whom we knew as faulty, the earth's creatures."
We can think of three other people those elites don't care about. Their names are Black, Wright and (Jeremiah) Johnson. They're the three American soldiers who died with Johnson in Niger.
The Times says Johnson has been overlooked in all the hubbub of the past week. That said, a lot of attention has gone to Johnson; very little attention has gone to those who died with him. Can you imagine one of The Others, out in the country, being annoyed by that?
We can imagine that. We can also imagine criticism of Rep. Wilson, who, to her eternal credit, founded the mentoring program which presumably helped La David Johnson become the person he was.
We can imagine someone thinking that Rep. Wilson was tonally inappropriate at times when she gave that speech in 2015. We can imagine General Kelly thinking that, especially when we remember that his son had died in Iraq in 2010.
An FBI building was being dedicated that day to two FBI agents who had lost their lives years before. Relatives of one agent was present. We can imagine Kelly thinking that Rep. Wilson was perhaps out over her skis in some parts of her speech that day. We can imagine him thinking that she was a bit self-aggrandizing.
General Kelly's insulting behavior toward Rep. Kelly last week was extremely poorly considered. It would be a batter world if he had corrected and apologized his faulty factual statements. But we can imagine his general reaction to Rep. Wilson's speech.
We say these things because no one is perfect. There are no perfect messengers; that includes Rep. Wilson, who, to her eternal credit, founded and ran the mentoring program which gave Sgt. Wilson some of the help he deserved when he was a child who had lost his mother.
We'd love for The Ghost of Mentoring Programs Past to take General Kelly, and President Trump, to view the upbeat family dinners served by the upbeat young man Rep. Wilson was decent enough to help. We also would have liked it if Rep. Wilson had reminded us, last week, that three other lives were lost in Niger, and that those lives, which were perhaps being overlooked, were just as important, and just as valuable, as the life of their comrade, who Rep. Wilson had helped.
Large continental nations are well served when leaders possess the wisdom to do such things. Instead, Rep. Wilson got a bit hot at times last week. That was perfectly understandable, but it says she isn't a perfect messenger, as indeed no one is.
("Whom we knew as faulty.")
How are we in the liberal world seen by The Others, by the very bad, extremely racist people found Over There? Let's consider some cases:
In the immediate aftermath of Trayvon Martin's death, Rep. Wilson referred to it as a "murder." In our view, that wasn't necessarily the wisest thing to do. Can you imagine the way that might have looked, not necessarily incorrectly, to some of The Others?
In our view, it was less than perfect when Rep. Wilson voiced that instant prejudgment. That said, by historical norms, it was outrageous when Hillary Clinton used that same term to describe Martin's death in her new book, What Happened.
A duly constituted jury had long since ruled that Trayvon Martin's death wasn't a murder. Can you imagine how it may look to some of The Others, not necessarily incorrectly, when they see Clinton say things like that?
In a recent column, Paul Krugman—he's long been the liberal world's journalistic MVP—offered this assessment of Rep. Wilson's remarks in 2015:
"Video of the dedication shows...that Representative Wilson's remarks at the ceremony were entirely appropriate."
In our view, he overstated a bit. We can imagine how that overstatement might look to some of The Others. Can you imagine how that might look? Can you imagine that such a reaction isn't necessarily evil, racist or wrong?
Can you imagine how we're seen by Others? We're not asking if you agree with these Others, who we know to be very bad. We're asking if you can imagine the possibility that the way we're seen in these instances isn't necessarily wrong.
Just for the record, our tribe has created inaccurate narratives about an array of high-profile cases in recent years. We've invented facts, disappeared facts, and stressed completely irrelevant facts, all so we can tell our stories in the ways we like.
We've done this again and again and again; we've memorized our misstatements. Can you imagine how this might look to some of the people Over There? Can you imagine that The Others aren't necessarily wrong when they see us this way?
Trust us! None of our upper-end liberal stars care about Sgt. Johnson, or about the many other superb young people who have come up as he did. They tell you this by their constant silence. They also don't care about the three people who died along with him that day.
We've proved these things over and over and over again. On this basis, The Others imagine that they can see what we're actually like.
The Others imagine they can see what we're like. BREAKING: All too often, the way we're seen by Others isn't exactly "wrong."
The New York Times has profiled Johnson, an upbeat, optimistic young man who was lucky enough, as a child, to be helped by Rep. Wilson. What about The Others, though? Should they have been left behind?