I don’t want to have empathy for Melania Trump, but I can’t help it

Whenever I find myself starting to feel any empathy for Melania Trump, I look up the 2011 interview in which Joy Behar asks her what she makes of her husband’s racist smear campaign against President Obama. Watching her make the conscious decision, when given an opportunity to distance herself from her husband on the subject of birtherism, to instead join him in suggesting that Barack Obama may not have been born in America, pretty much always has the same effect on me. Any compassion I might be feeling at the time just starts draining from my body, as though a cork had been pulled somewhere… Today, though, watching video of Melania Trump interacting with her husband on the grounds of the White House, I just can’t help but feel overwhelming sadness for her, and not even her history of birtherism is helping to diminish it. It’s seriously painful to watch, especially seeing as how, just a few days ago, sitting next to Barack Obama at Barbara Bush’s funeral, a thousand miles away from Donald Trump, she seemed so damned happy.

I know it’s stupid to read too much into a short, out-of-context video clip of her pushing Trump’s hand away, and a single, grainy photo of her beaming next to Obama. And I know a lot of what I’m feeling right now is just me projecting on Melania Trump, thinking about how I’d feel if the whole world just found out that my spouse, days after the birth of our child, was off having unprotected sex with both a Playboy model and an adult film celebrity. I think, “Oh my god, she must be trapped,” because, if put in the same position, there’s no way I’d stay, if I weren’t being somehow coerced into doing so. But who really knows what’s going on? In my mind, she must be thinking, “I married an absolute monster, but I have no choice but to stay.” In reality, though, she may not really care. What I’m reading as overwhelming disgust in this most recent video, may be something else entirely. She may just be angry that a French couple she hardly knows is coming over for dinner and ruining their plans to cuddle up in front of their golden fireplace watching old episodes of Mister Peepers. And that smile on her face, when she was sitting next to Obama a few days ago, may have been because Trump, the love of her life, had just texted her a joke about Barbara Bush, or a Kenyan birth certificate emoji.

So, yeah, I know I shouldn’t read to much into this most recent footage, but I can’t help but find it absolutely heart-breaking. I know it’s wrong, stupid, and a waste of my time, but I can’t help it… The last time there was footage of her slapping his hand away, I think I laughed about it. I may have even shared it here. This time, though, it’s different. There’s nothing even remotely funny about this. It just physically hurts me to watch it. There’s a darkness about it that I find really troubling.

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  1. Jean Henry
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    It is rarely simple to leave a marriage. It’s doubly hard when the person to whom one is married is abusive and powerful. I have had sympathy for Melania from the get-go. Everyone who critiques her does so imagining she has free will. But we all see the public face of the president’s impulsiveness and rage. We also know Melania has ambition, and may be staying in the role because she values being First Lady. We also know who easily many Americans deride female amibition of any kind and at any level. She looked very happy with Obama and the bushes the day before. I’m sure she returned home to the presidents wrath.

    I’ll be very happy for her when she dumps the chump. I’ll be very happy for us when we dump the chump too.

  2. Jcp2
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    For some reason, she didn’t wear a coat. When she does, she wears it like a cape, without using the sleeves. She uses the empty sleeves as her Maginot line.

  3. Iron lung
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    EOS will soon blurt out some off topic comment about “the unborn.”

  4. John Brown
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    The problem with this, and psychopaths and narcissists rely on it, is that you are projecting normal healthy emotionality onto Melania. Hell, I guarantee there are some Liberals who’ve thought about trump himself “he can’t be as bad as he seems, its not possible”. Well hell yeah it’s possible. And she’s complicit in treason and an enemy of democracy. She’s no victim. What the hell are people thinking enabling any tolerance for these traitors whatsoever. There are lots of military veterans and “highly skilled” deep state operators who will give no quarter to these traitors when circumstances dictate. Resolve your conviction to defend democracy. No sympathy for the devil. Ever.

  5. Eel
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    She bought her ticket, and now she has to take the ride, just like everyone else. She sold her soul to the Devil, and there’s no coming back from that.

  6. Jean Henry
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    John Brown— Most incarcerated women are imprisoned for crimes in which they supported a man or protected themselves or their children from a man. They may or may not deserve to be incarcerated on a case by case basis, but they also deserve our compassion.
    Melania married a wealthy real estate investor and tv personality to secure citizenship and financial stability. She didn’t marry a tyrant. She did stay married to him. I think we’re suggesting she may not have felt she had a choice. There is a rumor that she was late to the election night victory celebration, because she was circling the building in her limo negotiating the conditions under which she would stay married to Trump. I’m not sure leaving him was an option but she could use threat of leaving to give herself a little space from him, as she has.
    I appreciate that she demonstrates regularly her aversion for Trump and her affection for those who despise him. I have defended her from sexist assault by men and feminists. I don’t think she’s a victim any more than the rest of us. I also don’t think she’s a villain like her husband. I look forward to hearing what she has to say, if she’s willing to say it, once this is all over and she frees herself from Trumps grasp. I think her evolution is quite interesting and play-worthy.

    But she is not writing policy or executive orders or even standing up for her husbands positions in any meaningful way. She is not guilty of anything more than not leaving and none of us know what might have she faced if she had tried.

  7. Jean Henry
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Anyone who has ever been trapped in a cold abusive marriage or seen it up close will have recognize the facial expressions and body language and have empathy for Melania. It’s the worst. There is no reason to feel bad about empathy.

  8. Lynne
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    On the one hand, I don’t give her a pass any more than I think Eva Braun deserves one. You simply cannot be associated with that kind of evil and not be a part of it. On the other hand, I understand that abuse makes things complicated even if the abuse is not physical. For all I know, he has convinced her that she is worthless without him. It may also be that she just hates him but considers it worth putting up with his BS for the money and the fame. She has to know that she is getting to be an age when he is likely to dump her and I suspect that their pre-nup gives her more money in that case. Or who knows, maybe she stays for her son? I’ve known people to stay in bad marriages for the kids and if the marriage is cold and distant rather than actively abusive, I can even see myself making a similar choice if I were in her shoes.

    Mostly I don’t think of it too much although I will admit that during the campaign and up to the inauguration, I thought it was fun to engage in conspiracy theories about the meanings of her fashion choices. Did she wear the pussy blouse on purpose to make a statement? I am trying to resist doing it now but yes, it is still fun to notice how her body language and facial expressions are so different when she is not with Trump than when she is with him. Truly though, I am hoping that she leaves him and writes a book! I don’t know why but I don’t want to believe she is an awful person even though I concede that she very well might be.

  9. Ytown
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    How do you all function with your day-to-day lives when all you can do is think of Trump?

    Also, what happened to your interesting local topics?

  10. John Brown
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Since we can’t read her mind and know the truth about her experience we tend to project based on our own and commonly shared human experiences. But the misogyny that the entire trump family embodies is exactly one of the reasons we can not let ourselves be distracted.

    I agree with Mark’s previous post that these Christo-Fascist white power types have shown there is no line they won’t cross to garner power. And while I know it’s against the intellectual nature of liberal and progressives to take a simplistic un-nuanced approach to problems, this can be a major weakness if this totalitarian creep turns existential. That’s why the “abortion is murder” crowd is so damn effective. No nuance.

    Trumps are evil. No nuance.

  11. Eel
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    YTown sounds like the kind of person who, as a citizen of London in the early ’40s, would have complained during air raids that his favorite radio broadcasts had been cancelled.

  12. Ytown
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Apparently you’re much older than me, I don’t remember the London air sirens personally. Although I do remember my history. However, you are right, those sirens would have annoyed me.

  13. Iron Lung 2
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    “How do you all function with your day-to-day lives when all you can do is think of Trump?”

    What is wrong with being politically engaged?

  14. Ytown
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Politically engaged or obsessed?

  15. Iron Lung 2
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure why it matters. Mr. Maynard can write about what he likes.

    Perhaps you might start your own blog if there are specific topics you are interested in.

  16. John Brown
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    This is such a sordid and unpresidented episode that I’m going to refrain from attributing intent to any of these criminal conspirators until the facts are known. Some of what we do know as fact so far is so nuts that I would not be surprised if we ultimately discover that Melania was in fact an FSB controlled femme fatale manipulating those weak Americans with their silly empathy (read in Ruskie accent). Ok, that was fun to write out loud…

  17. Ytown
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    It’s just amazing to see the number of Trump entries on his blog. I used to enjoy his commentary on local issues. Is that okay with you?

  18. Iron Lung 2
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    If you enjoy Mr. Maynard’s commentary on local issues, you might simply suggest that he write more about them, rather than accuse him of being “obsessed.”

    Just a suggestion.

  19. Ytown
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    He certainly sounds obsessed, as do you.

  20. Iron Lung 2
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Very odd.

    You expect that a local blog cater to your wishes, yet take great pains to insult the author and his readership.

    Very strange.

  21. Ytown
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Just expressing an opinion about this blog. I’m sorry you disapprove.

    Is it odd or strange? Just asking, you mentioned both.

  22. Wobblie
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    I think JB is onto something. Melania is a Slav. They have obviously been grooming DT for decades. You know those oreintals are always thinking years into the future. And If you know Slavic history they have always been flip flopping between the east and west. In fact Melania is probably the Controller. MM has his emotions all upside down. She obviously controls DT. Every time she rejects him he comes out for Putin. Look it up. His philandering was his childish attempt at freeing himself.

  23. Iron Lung 2
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    “Just expressing an opinion about this blog. I’m sorry you disapprove.”

    I neither approve or disapprove, but insulting the author of the blog seems an impractical way of encouraging him to write about topics that you wish to see.

    It seems both a strange and odd strategy.

  24. Ytown
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    I’ll take your comments under advisement.

  25. Kit
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    If you really want a puzzle let’s try to analyze Kanye West.

  26. teacherpatti
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    I mean, she wanted a sugar daddy and she got it. I ain’t mad at her. She lives a material life I can only dream of. She literally can have anything she wants and doesn’t have to go to a job. Meantime, I get up at 6am and bust my ass all day for very little money (I like my job but still), will never get certain things I’d like to have, never be rich. So…who is the fool? (Note: I would NOT under any circumstances want to be married to Trump but the thought of marrying well so I wouldn’t have to worry about money, well, it’s appealing.)

    That said, I do feel sorry for her. I don’t think she has many friends. I’d be her friend–I know lots of people and we do cool shit.

  27. Jean Henry
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    Kanye West is not an existential threat to our democracy last I checked.

    I know this all sounds like the most base kind of gossip, but, in fact, Trump matters. And normalizing what he does and how he does it is dangerous. This is what history teaches us.

    While I care a great deal about local issues and normally think they matter more to day to day lives of most MM readers than goings on in DC, in Trump’s case, I make an exception. This all matters a great deal. Understanding the way totalitarianism insinuates itself into a democracy matters. Understanding how Trump’s actions mimic those of other totalitarian leaders matters. Democracy is a fragile system. And a new one. The norm for human governance historically is much more brutal and less humane. The record Mark and others are making of this time is essential to understanding our vulnerabilities so we can prevent this madness in the future. Or so others can access a record and understand what happened if it all goes very very wrong.

    Sometimes I think trying to understand a madman like Trump is a waste of time. People dealing with narcissists can become obsessed with trying to understand them. But he’s not your average narcissist and this isnt your average circumstance. Obsession is justified.

    If this sounds sensational or inflammatory to you, you are not paying close enough attention. https://medium.com/@Amy_Siskind/week-75-experts-in-authoritarianism-advise-to-keep-a-list-of-things-subtly-changing-around-you-so-ac41bda4c55d

    As for critique of Mark and this blog, well I think it’s reasonable for regular readers and commenters to weigh in. I do regularly. As does IL, actually. Mark can choose to ignore or not as he sees fit. It’s still his blog to manage and he seems to know how to hold his own.

  28. Sad
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, and Fox News spent eight years decrying our slide into socialism.

  29. Jean Henry
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Really Sad? False equivalence, much? Socialism and Totalitarianism, equally problematic…

  30. Sad
    Posted April 26, 2018 at 4:49 am | Permalink

    OK Henny Penny

  31. Jean Henry
    Posted April 26, 2018 at 5:06 am | Permalink


  32. iRobert
    Posted October 14, 2019 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Is there some way we could mail-order a new president?

  33. Jean Henry
    Posted October 14, 2019 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Amusing to peer back and see SAD be so dismissive of concern about Trump’s over-reaches. I wonder if he still feels that way.

    iRobert– it’s called an absentee ballot.

  34. iRobert
    Posted October 14, 2019 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Are you going to let Jean talk about you like that, Sad?

  35. iRobert
    Posted October 14, 2019 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    It’s good to see you’ve sobered up a little, Jean.

  36. iRobert
    Posted October 14, 2019 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t it about time “The Donald” trade in Melania for a newer model? That fact that he hasn’t is sure enough proof that she is his handler for Putin, like DD says.

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