I will never, ever defend a single word, action, policy, blunder, statement, or even fucking breath that comes from Donald Trump. I have less than zero respect for him, and I think the fact that he somehow got the nomination to one of our major parties is despicable and says something very disturbing about the U.S. as a whole which, while we may have known it as a whisper in our ear for quite some time, now comes as a megaphone blaring into the mic of the Nation’s loudest PA system. The fact that recent polls (albeit very early and historically unreliable timing for polls) give him a shot at winning the Presidential election may as well be bell ringing out the official end of the U.S. as we know it, and a call for all of us to figure out something that works better, and wont result in a revolting, insult-to-my-least-favorite-color-orange bundle of bigotry being elected to the most powerful office in the Country. Suffice to say, I hate Donald Trump.
But that does not mean I have any ill will toward Melania Trump, or anyone else in the Trump family, for that matter. I don’t know them. They didn’t choose this. Hardly anybody had heard of Melania Trump before this campaign, and I can only assume that’s because she likes to stay out of the spotlight, despite being married to Donald Trump, a flashy wad of neon credit cards and a soundbite. But I’m in no place to judge her for who she’s married to – none of us are. So when Melania took the stage on Monday at the Republican National Convention and gave a speech with lines that were very likely directly plagiarized from Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech at the Democratic National Convention, I don’t fault Melania. She may have known the lines were from Mrs. Obama’s speech, and she may not have. She may have put the lines in the speech herself, or a speechwriter might have. But at the end of the day, who this reflects poorly on is the Trump campaign, because whoever okay’d the speech clearly shouldn’t have. What it is is an example of Trump’s reckless abandon with which he seems to approach everything in life with. What it is absolutely NOT, is an indictment of Melania Trump’s character.
Why is that? Why am I not blaming the person who gave the speech for the plagiarism in the speech? Because as I alluded to before, Melania Trump did not choose the life of a politician: having every comment over-analyzed, having every public appearance seem like the most high-stakes game of Cards Against Humanity anyone could conceive of, being shredded every time you say or do something wrong even if you didn’t know it was wrong and even if you apologize, having your character torn to shreds with a media willing to use every form of bias and bigotry they have in their arsenal. This is not the life Melania Trump chose, and it is not the treatment she should be subjected to, and the same goes for the rest of the Trump family. While I’m not saying they can’t be called out if they say something offensive, just like any other public figure can and should be, we’re not talking about Melania Trump going on stage and echoing her husband’s early words that “Mexicans immigrants are rapists,” we’re talking about a speech that she was by no means the only one writing, including plagiarized lines.
So when writers at the Huffington Post, a news outlet I normally respect, deem it appropriate to drudge up Melania’s disputed college record by headlining a story “Melania Trump’s Claims She Graduated College Are About as Credible as Her Speech Last Night” with the subheading “she became – and remains – a dropout,” they have to know what they’re doing by juxtaposing her dropping out of college with the plagiarized speech – they’re implying that she’s stupid. More than implying it, they’re almost straight up saying it. Regardless of if she or someone else lied about her finishing college, regardless of if she did finish college, it’s incredibly inappropriate and unnecessary to connect those to a plagiarized speech of which we don’t even know how much she wrote. It’s never okay to imply someone is stupid for not finishing college. It’s never okay to imply someone is stupid. That’s a low-brow attack that insults not only the target, but also offends millions of people with developmental disabilities who have been called this on a routine basis.
It’s not just that, though, it’s how every article about this scandal refers to it as “Melania Trump’s Plagiarism” as opposed to “Trump Campaign’s Plagiarism Flub” or “Trump Campaign Speechwriters Apparently Plagiarized.” This is not Melania’s issue to own, despite her being the one who gave the speech. As I’ve stated a few times now, Melania did not choose to be a politician, and we should respect her by treating her as though she is just a public figure, and one that clearly likes her privacy, not a politician. This plagiarism story is important. But it’s important because it reveals things about the campaign not the woman who made one of her first public speeches in the entirety of her husband’s presidential run thus far. And of course, as a Time article points out, the worst of it is almost always in social media. Even usually respectable celebrity twitter users like Jesse Williams, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and a blast from the past name Howard Dean jumped in to either just make fun of Melania or (especially in Dean’s case) to portray here as the same kind of fraudulent and untrustworthy person her husband is. The problem again is that we can say those things about Donald Trump. He’s a politician running for the highest office in our Country – he’s inviting this. Hell we can even say it about Bill Clinton, despite being in the spouse role this time, as a former president and someone who is traditionally viewed as one of the most talented politicians in modern history, he’s not exactly your typical Presidential Nominee’s spouse. But we should not be saying these things about Melania Trump.
Now, obviously it’s too late to take back all of the hurtful rhetoric that’s been going on, and the whirlwind of negative attention she’s received unjustly, and honestly the media isn’t going to change, twitter isn’t going to change the next time something like this happens. I’m not looking to completely change the culture of media or social media – I’m just putting my name out there as someone who thinks it’s wrong to attack the character of someone who did not make the decision to put her head on the cultural chopping block. And hopefully I’m not the only one who made this realization as this news story cycled. But for my part #IStandWithMelaniaButAwayFromDonald. And yeah I know this isn’t twitter but a hashtag format seemed fitting. And in fact, I stand with Melania, but far away from Donald and also while giving him the double birded “fuck off” and sometimes throwing things at him (just stuff that resembles him like basketballs and oranges and road work signs and cantaloupes and Carrot Top).