Contributed by Alexandria Tom
Once again, Rep. Hank Johnson’s (D-Georgia) less than eloquent remarks on the detrimental effects of the build-up resurface in the news. This all started late last month at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the defense budget, where Johnson expressed his concern that Guam would “tip over or capsize” because of the sharp increase in population during the proposed military build-up on Guam.
He immediately got some heat from the media, as well as from a boisterous troupe of netizens, who insisted that Johnson literally meant the island would capsize. Of course Johnson later clarified through a spokesperson that he meant it metaphorically, but it was too late. A whole cache of motor boat Guam jokes and the like had already piled up in comment sections all over the web. (My favorite: “If we motored Guam over to China and tied-off they could all get free health care.“)
This time around Barack Obama is taking his share of that ridicule after endorsing Johnson in his re-election campaign. As the article discusses, Obama’s ridicule also has a lot to do with an unprecedented presidential endorsement of a black candidate in a majority black district. Comments and speculation on that angle could be an entire post in itself. But today I want to discuss the implications of a single comment now marking the career of this congressman.
Now as I see it, there is one truth, and only one truth, in this sea of misguided criticism: Johnson was not all there during those comments, which many, including his critics, his colleagues, and the President, believe is connected to the new treatment for his hepatitis C. So maybe he should take a breather while he adjusts to the medication. That still does not sway me from believing that his capsize comment was anything but valid, metaphor or not.
He may have bumbled his way through the lead in to his punch line, confusing the dimensions of the island and slow to correct mistaken words, but for any person who gives a second thought to what such a build-up could do to Guam’s already fragile ecosystem and infrastructure, his comments should make sense.
His clarifying statement could not have said it any better: “Having traveled to Guam last year, I saw firsthand how this beautiful — but vulnerable island — is already overburdened, and I was simply voicing my concerns that the addition of that many people could tip the delicate balance and do harm to Guam.”
It seems like a logical progression: island, water, boat, balance, tip, harm. Why would folks go through all the trouble of jumping over what is plainly obvious to take a jab at a sick man? I could simply chalk it up to the perennial sad state of American political discourse, but I could also suggest character assassination of one of the few congresspeople publicly questioning the build-up.
Beyond my little conspiracy theory, what do y’all think?