In days of yore, miners would carry into the mines a canary. Because the little bird breathed faster and had such small lungs, if there was a buildup of deadly gasses it would kill the canary. They did this for two reasons; they hated canaries and wanted them to die slowly and painfully, and that they would use it to indicate the mine was not safe and that they should immediately evacuate. Ever since those days, the term "canary in a coal mine" has come to mean that something is an omen of bad things to come.
When The New York Times reported that Trump knew about Russian President Vladimir Putin putting out a bounty on American soldiers and still has yet to do anything about it, one could have called it "a canary in the coal mine"; the clearest warning ever that Trump doesn't care about anyone but himself. However, you would be wrong. There are no more canaries in coalmines when it comes to Trump. They're all dead. Every last one of them.
As much as Trump has draped himself in the flag, and has claimed his love for soldiers, it was always a prop for his own ego and appearance of power. That's how Trump has always operated; appearances. The man bullshitted his way through numerous bankruptcies with the appearances of competence and somehow managed to get numerous loans even though it was readily apparent he was grossly incompetent. He rode that false sense of bravado and ability right into the White House which he only won through an archaic and outdated Electoral College system.
But even before that, he let us know that he didn't give a damn about soldiers. In order to build his stupid little wall, he redirected Department of Defense funds away from base construction. You might think that affects new firing ranges and landing strips, but the money would have paid for schools for service members' children and housing for soldiers. Military barracks and on-base housing has been worn out for years, especially after they handed maintenance over to private contractors. Those contractors have allowed rodent and bug infestations to grow while mold grew in the walls. On top of that, toxic construction materials such as lead and asbestos have been found in these homes, often occupied by children. If Trump is willing to sacrifice the safety of American soldiers, there is literally no one he won't throw into the line of fire to save his own ass.
No matter what one thinks of the military or soldiers, one has to easily concede that they are held up by both major political parties as paragons of virtue and patriotism. The sacrifices to life and family they make are praised endlessly in our culture, and they are widely seen as one of the most trusted and venerated institutions in our country. We may not like war or defense spending, but we do love and trust our soldiers. In fact, during the recent unrest in our cities over police violence, many welcomed soldiers over the police as they were more trusted to conduct themselves responsibly, and in fact, largely did so.
Only the most extreme of political opinions absolutely despises soldiers in this country. Yet, here is Trump, trying to avoid being held accountable for his inaction on a country that has repeatedly attacked not only our democracy, but the independence of Ukraine, its own citizens and media, and has moved backwards on human rights. Russia under Vladimir Putin is not our friend and ally.
I won't state that Trump is a Russian puppet and that he takes orders from Putin, but I will say that Trump is afraid of Putin. The fact that it is beyond a shadow of a doubt to any reasonable person that Russia attacked our elections and Trump refuses to confront Putin on anything is the point. Now we know that Russia has paid the Taliban to kill American soldiers, while the U.S. is seeking a way to leave Afghanistan, and Trump has thrown his hands in the air and claimed ignorance of this fact, which is something anyone with any sense would know the president would be told.
While standing on the stage at West Point praising the newly commissioned officers he forced to return during an epidemic so he could drape himself in the respect and honor we bestow to our soldiers, he knew about this. He knew that Putin was killing the soldiers these young men and women would soon lead, and all he cared about was the pomp and grandeur of the military saluting him.
We got outraged when he banned Muslims from entering the country, but we knew he was Islamophobic. We were horrified that he created detention camps for immigrants, but we knew he was xenophobic. Puerto Rico was devastated by a hurricane, and we watched him throw paper towels, but we knew he hated Hispanics. Trump passed financial legislation that has further hurt the workers he says he loves, cut social services to the poor, and has handed out government money to friends while looting our treasury for his own gain, and we saw this coming. When he began to erode LGBTQ rights despite claiming he was our best friend, we knew it was coming.
Then the coronavirus hit and he played it off, redirected blame onto Obama and Democratic governors and to this day thinks it will just go away. One would think that all of these dead canaries would have let you know that he doesn't care about anyone or anything except himself and his money. Yet here we are, looking at 31 dead American soldiers since 2019, when we know this began. American soldiers are one of the four pillars of conservative rhetoric, the other three being religion, family values, and capitalism. If Trump is willing to throw their lives away in order to avoid confrontation with Putin for whatever reason, to avoid having to admit failure and being wrong, we shouldn't be surprised.
We had all these canaries to tell us he would do this, what does it matter if the last one is dead too?
Amanda Kerri is an Oklahoma-based writer and comedian, a regular contributor to The Advocate, and a former board member for Oklahoma City Pride. Follow her on Twitter @Amanda_Kerri.