How about a little empathy and compassion for our new FLOTUS?

Disclaimer: I’m not a fan of Melania. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t really know her name or her relationship to our new POTUS until his campaign and new presidency. I am certainly NOT a supporter of the man who is now our 45th President.

I made the decision to share a link on Facebook to, what turned out to be, a controversial article regarding Melania Trump. The article contained few facts, was based on reported hearsay, and definitely slanted to garner sympathy for Melania. Apparently, the content is not to be trusted as factual or believable, since it is an article from the New York Post.

Typically, many of the things that I share hardly generate much response, other than by a select few of my actual friends who intentionally seek out what I’ve posted. This particular article, and my shared response to it, garnered some intensely negative reactions, as well as a couple of sympathetic ones. While I genuinely appreciated the sympathetic ones, it was the negative ones which, understandably, caught my attention and pushed my internal buttons. These comments triggered something in me which feels like a form of defensiveness, both on Melania’s behalf and my own.

She is not fit to be a. First Lady

My issues are with the glaring hypocrisy from the right. They called Michelle Obama things like “an ape in heels” and criticized her for showing her arms, but accept with open arms a woman who was a sex worker and compare her to Jackie O. They cheer on the immigration ban, while celebrating a woman who was an undocumented immigrant working in the US. My issues aren’t with her, they’re with the people who are celebrating her as some goddess while ignoring their own hypocrisy.

Do people really believe everything they read? Especially in The New York Post? . . . Fact check people.

I’ll address the last comment, first. Guilty as charged. I often forget to fact check articles I share . . . which is one reason I’ve really stopped sharing most articles. I’ve stopped reading most of them, too. I honestly don’t know which news outlet is trustworthy or not. Based on my limited college education, I’m aware that almost all reporting is slanted, whether intentionally or not.

As human beings, we are truly incapable of being completely objective and without idealogical motivation in everything we do. That’s just a simple fact of life. With the internet and the overwhelming influence of social media in our post-millenial lives, this is more true than ever before. I suspect that very little of what is reported as soon as the information is available has been completely fact checked by those who report it or express their opinions about what the information means. Ours is a generation both more sophisticated and naive than any before, in my opinion.

Now, onto what this is really about for me, going deeper than the sound bite and looking for the humanity we all share. In my case, I’m going to openly admit that the filters which I read the article through are deeply personal and rooted in my own history, as well as the knowledge I have acquired regarding mental health, domestic violence, and women’s roles in our society and others. What follows is merely my personal conjecture and hypothesis.

First, let’s examine the publicly displayed character and attitudes of Melania’s husband. He has shown himself to be a person who does what he wants without the consent or feedback of women. He has displayed distinctly misogynstic views and has been proven guilty of demeaning, dismissive, and verbally abusive behavior toward women. He has shown himself to be someone who revels in his personal power and is not hesitant to use that power to achieve his own desires and agendas. If he has zero qualms about presenting this as his public character and identity, is it beyond the realm of probability that he exercises these same traits and characteristics in his private life?

Now, let’s briefly look at what we know of Melania’s personal history. Her country of origin, Slovenia, was under communist Yugoslavian rule until 1991. Melania was born in 1970. She came to the US as a model in 1996. Based on what little I know of Eastern European societal norms, it is likely that she grew up in a supremely male-dominated society, where women probably had little power and influence. At 16, she began a modeling career. The modeling industry, like the movie and music industries, has a well-known history of being both male-dominated and exploitative of the “talent.”

My conjecture is that Melania was preconditioned to have a more submissive role in relationship to men who have positions of authority and power. It has been documented that, initially, she refused to be in relationship to Donald Trump. It was six years before they were engaged to be married. Is it possible that a man of his wealth, power, and position pursued her, unrelentingly, until she succumbed to the pressure of being aged out of her industry, partially due to his influence? Is it conceivable that he would use his role as her husband and his influence in our society, based on his celebrity, wealth, and power to dominate her in the context of their marriage?

Sexual dominance, financial control, isolation, and psychological manipulation are often tools used to perpetuate control over those experiencing domestic violence. Is it too far from the realm of possiblity to consider that this may be a factor in Melania’s life?

Regarding her history as a sex-worker and illegal immigrant. The actual facts we know to be true are that, in her job as a model, she posed nude for GQ. How many models are used in publications and advertisements as sexual objects? As a model, she was likely employed through agencies and represented by agents who had significant control and say over which jobs she took. While she was guilty of working illegally under a B1/B2 visa, that designation is for both those on temporary business and those who are tourists. As a model in our country on that type of visa, it is possible that those who arranged for her visa and business in our country misled her and that she believed that the work she did was permissible?

In terms of how she is viewed and spoken of by Trump supporters, is she personally responsible and accountable for their vociferous villification of Michelle Obama, their iconization of her, and their evident hypocrisy between those two stances? Is it fair to criticize her for either their behaviors or her husband’s? Is it acceptable to shame her, for any of these reasons? Is it compassionate or kind to publicly assasinate her character based on how we feel about her husband?  Do any of us have the right to pass judgment on her for our idealogical mores and values which she has not met?

We had eight years with Michelle Obama as our FLOTUS. She is a strong, powerful, independent woman in a mutually supportive personal and political relationship with her husband. She exercised her power and influence in visibly constructive and ethical ways. A significant number of us dearly miss her and her husband. Melania is not Michelle. Donald is not Obama. I don’t see how we can justifiably find fault with her for not being Michelle, when it is clear that she is a completely different person, with a completely different history, in a completly different relationship with her husband.