I’ve made no secret of my visceral disgust with Donald Trump and his effort to inaugurate American fascism and I can get behind nearly any non-violent protest of Trump’s policies and behavior … except one.
I’m very uncomfortable with complaints about paying for Melania Trump’s decision to stay in New York with her son. I’ve seen reports that her security detail will cost twice the budget for the National Endowment the Arts (unproven) or could pay for the re-settlement of dozens of refugees. While we might quibble about the actual size of the expenditure, there’s no question that it will be substantial.
We ought to give serious thought the meaning of the devastating inaugural clip.
My discomfort stems from my belief that we must think very carefully about why a woman, under considerable public pressure to live in the White House, might choose to live apart from her husband: she might be afraid. Let me stress that I have no specific knowledge about the Trump’s marriage. Nonetheless I found the following clip from the inauguration utterly chilling:
As Slate noted:
In a dark and mesmerizing clip that’s been circulating on social media today, Donald Trump turns to face his wife Melania at the inauguration ceremony, and she smiles back at him widely. When Trump faces forward again, we get a split-second glimpse of Melania’s inner turmoil as her face melts into a frown.
No matter how corrupt, ignorant and irresponsible Trump is, and he is all those things, we should not take out our anger on his wife.
In the first place, it wasn’t her decision to run for President; it was his. It has been apparent from the earliest days of Trump’s campaign that she has been reticent to be a part of it. She is rarely seen, and far more rarely heard, both quite unusual for a presidential spouse. And the one time she agreed to a major public appearance, she was humiliated when she was given a speech to read that had been plagiarized from Michelle Obama.
Second, it is not her decision to receive Secret Service protection; it’s a Federal mandate. She could easily pay for her own security but has not been given that choice.
Third, we ought to consider the possibility that she is protecting her child. Both the Clintons and Obamas went to extraordinary lengths to protect their young children when they occupied the White House even though they never had to wonder if they were up to the demands of public appearances. Melania may feel that her son needs the additional protection that will be afforded by living elsewhere so that he cannot be forced to participate in public displays. If that’s the case, she is showing tremendous resolve to put her son’s wellbeing above politics and that deserves our admiration, not contempt.
Fourth, and most important, we ought to give serious thought the meaning of the devastating inaugural clip. I don’t presume to know what Melania was thinking, but I do know what I can see.
As Slate explains:
Jezebel, which posted the Melania/Melancholia video on Monday, shows the exchange taking place during Franklin Graham’s speech on Inauguration Day, then zooms in further on Melania’s devastating grimace…
If you watch the video of Graham’s speech from another angle, it looks like Trump may have been saying something to his son Barron. Perhaps, then, Melania is frowning as a reaction to her son being scolded. You could interpret that look a lot of ways, to be honest. But there’s something about her complete about-face that seems to reveal a deeper truth.
If the clip of Donald Trump ripping up his notes after one of the presidential debates distilled the essence of a man who knew he’d screwed up big time, this clip is its sad sequel, a vision of what that “perverted version of charisma” does to all the people who have to live with it.
As a physician, the clip raises multiple red flags for me. The contrast between the smile when her husband is looking at her, and the apparently intense sadness as soon as he looks away is agonizing.
The “Free Melania” signs at the Women’s Marches were supposed to be a humorous allusion to the Trump marriage, but they may contain more truth than we will ever know. For that reason, both Melania and Barron Trump should be off limits for political protests and jokes. What we are witnessing may not be the least bit funny.