There are a lot of people who think I ought to be nice to Melania Trump, so let’s clear some things up:
I hate (most of) the rich. I am not jealous of them or their wealth, I am not engaging in class warfare. I hate anyone with the means to do tremendous good who refuses to. That’s not even my inner pinko commie speaking, that’s just me as a human expecting better from more fortunate humans and never seeing it.
Melania has not simply enabled her husband, she has been and done and said many of the same things he has. Melania was/is(?) a birther, a ginormous hypocrite, and at the very least, she is complicit in her husband’s crimes by virtue of ignoring or forgiving them.
Historically speaking, Barack Obama is not my favorite president. I know that’s an unpopular sentiment because he was just so “cool,” but he was also weak in areas he didn’t even have to fight for, and unwilling to stop perpetuating American empire-building, despite knowing that the blood of his own ancestors is the currency that paid for America.
His wife, however, has been by far and away my favorite First Lady. Perhaps there is a political imperative tied to winning the presidency that in my naivete I simply don’t understand is more powerful than lifelong intentions and good deeds, but although her husband could not keep so tight a grip on his own humanity, Michelle Obama did so with grace and ease.
Michelle Obama was so good at being the First Lady that although there were 43 others Melania could have emulated — Frances Clara Folsom was less than half Grover Cleveland’s age when they married at the White House! — she picked the one black one. The history of appropriation of black achievement is not limited to the theft of rock ‘n roll and Donnie Dollhands taking credit for 91 straight months of job growth, it appears.
And so it is that, despite being mercilessly called out for her blatant plagiarism of Michelle’s words from 2008 in her speech to the 2016 Republican National Convention, she nonetheless stamped her imprimatur and striking profile image on an online safety booklet that was originally commissioned in 2014 by Michelle Obama.
This was yesterday, and it brings to mind not just why I’m not kind to Melania Trump, but the very stark difference between the two First Ladies: Every effort by Michelle Obama was surrounded and supported by research, planning, the input of experts, and above all a desire to do something good. Everything that Melania affixes her name and model face to is surrounded and supported by the work of the woman before her, and above all a desire to look like she’s doing good.
Even the name of Melania’s “initiative” — Be Best — is derivative of Michelle Obama’s “Be Better” statement from just a few years ago, and it’s hard not to imagine Donald walking by the desk where his wife’s initiative is taking shape and noting the inferiority of the lesser superlative: “Make it BEST!” he might say. “Better is for losers.”
Even if her husband and the White House are doing her the disservice of simply assigning these things to “the office of the First Lady” and telling her only after a plan has been hatched, I can’t imagine the day that Michelle Obama allows her picture to be put on any idea she didn’t fully endorse.
That’s just not what a First Lady does.
Featured image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images