Humor is great therapy in the face of tragedy, and Free Melania Trump has become the hashtag to sooth the apoplectic meltdown for those who watched her husband Donald’s presidential inauguration with a mixture of grief and disbelief.
Across social media and signs at Saturday’s Women’s March, “free Melania” was the clever slogan to stick it to that despicable Donald Trump. The idea that the president’s wife was truly just as miserable to be stuck with him as some of them were was the ultimate punchline: Not only does it characterize Trump as a controlling slave master, but it robs him of one of the pillars of his oversized ego: His beautiful wife. Just ask any body language expert. Melania wants out of this marriage.
Sure, there are clearly videos and photos of the inauguration where Melania looks less than thrilled to be there; but that’s nothing new. She hasn’t been excited to be here the entire campaign. Mrs. Trump has been mocked for her accent, accused of plagiarism and otherwise eviscerated every time she has appeared in public, no matter how brief she attempted to make those clearly traumatic moments in the spotlight.
One may argue that Michelle suffered the same behavior during Obama’s presidency. Even while leaving office, she was depicted as an ape — a reference to a time when evolution was used as evidence of the “subhuman” nature of those of African descent. These vile, racist remarks were unacceptable then, and they’re still appalling now when Trump’s critics laugh about domestic violence. Right-wing media is already salivating over the liberal elite snobbery of Free Melania.
— Genaro Lozano (@genarolozano) 24 de enero de 2017
To attack Melania in this way is to feed into the discord that Trump has been able to sow in the American people. If you’re inclined to believe that his presidency has already been tainted by Russia, it also plays directly into the hands of Vladimir Putin who knows, wisely, that a nation divided will fall. Joking that the FLOTUS is a battered wife, a sex slave or even just waking up from the effects of Stockholm syndrome plays right into that narrative: Why can’t those liberal snowflakes just respect people like they demand of others?
— Kate Lane (@katelaneous) 21 de enero de 2017
There are two possibilities to Free FLOTUS. Either the incoming First Lady is indeed terrified inside of her marriage, which is no joking matter, or she’s just mortified that she’ll be spending at least the next four years of her life as one of the most hated women in America. As Frank Bruni argued in his New York Times column on Tuesday, fighting the urge to roast her is essential to weakening Trump’s power base. Melania is not the one signing executive orders.
“If Trump’s presidency mirrors its dangerous prelude, one of the fundamental challenges will be to respond to him, his abettors and his agenda in the most tactically prudent way and not just the most emotionally satisfying one. To rant less and organize more. To resist taunts and stick with facts. To answer invective with intelligence.”
— Save Melania (@SaveMelania) 21 de noviembre de 2016
Furthermore, members of the international media who have already lived through the cycle of populism are warning that attacks are not the way to beat Trump. In Caracas Chronicles, journalist Andrés Miguel Rondón published an article detailing how Hugo Chávez and his successor Nicolás Maduro have kept Venezuela under Chavista rule for 18 years. Even after the jailing of political opponents, annual inflation of 800 percent and widespread shortages of basic food and medicine, Maduro still maintains the support of more than one in five Venezuelans.
“It took our leaders ten years to figure out they needed to actually go to the slums and to the countryside. And not for a speech, or a rally, but for game of dominoes or to dance salsa – to show they were Venezuelans too, that they had tumbao and could hit a baseball, could tell a joke that landed. That they could break the tribal divide, come down off the billboards and show they were real… It is the only way of establishing your standing. It’s deciding not to live in an echo chamber. To press pause on the siren song of polarization.”
Those who believe strongly in revolutionary violence may scoff at the proposed sensitivity against Free Melania Trump. Some far-left media, for instance, praised the unknown protester who punched prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer in the face. What socially conscious individual wouldn’t, after all, be tempted to boil over at a man who advocates for the segregation of the races because, as he once said on radio program Reveal, “I think we kind of hate each other.”
Maybe when it comes to Spencer we — isolationists and multiculturalists — do, indeed, kind of hate each other. The animalistic satisfaction of seeing him get punched on camera or laughing at Melania’s nervous behavior as she attempts to fulfill the role of “wife of the most hated incoming president in modern history” does feel good. Those ridden by anxiety for the future of the United States need a release, and the more hysterical, the better.
But that release can’t be immediate, and it can’t be petty either. It has to come in two years, when a wave of progressive Democrats take back Congress; or another two years after that when Donald Trump — and, yes, Free Melania and Barron, too — move out of the White House. Further justifying the vitriol of his staunch supporters by attacking a trophy wife who clearly doesn’t want to be in front of us anyway is not going to smooth that transition. It will just fuel the heckling of “tolerant liberals” that got us here in the first place.
[Featured Image by Alex Wong/Getty Images]