Michelle Obama was a very good first lady. To some, she was one of the best. She should be remembered fondly, even by those who did not vote for her husband.
I only wish that the people on the other side of the political aisle would reach across the divide and say some positive things about Melania Trump. I also wish chocolate flowed in rivers and lollipops cropped up in my garden, that gold dripped in lacy threads like moss from the trees and every day was a paid holiday.
Which is to say, I hope for miracles. Indeed, that is what it would take for the average Democrat or progressive to say something nice about our new first lady. It is impossible these days to hear her discussed without the words being squeezed through a scrim of sarcasm, stripped of any sense of empathy or admiration. Melania is either the butt of some very mean-spirited jokes, or vilified as a gold-digging prostitute who has a problem keeping her clothes on her lissome body.
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For some people, mostly the sort of women who wear pink crochet hats in their Facebook profile photos and wept bitter tears when the glass ceiling turned out to be made of Lucite, Melania is not worthy of sisterly respect, and they look at her with an underlying tone of disdain at the thought that a Slovenian model is replacing the earth mother of the vegetable garden.
I’ve been able to pretty much ignore the worst of the comments, blocking the sisters who spew their mean girl schlock all over social media. I’ve blocked or unfollowed most of them, and when one ventures into my airspace, I examine her as I would a cockroach: With measured disgust, from a safe distance.
But it’s very hard to avoid the criticisms when they are dropped like tiny bombs into your evening viewing, usually from cable news hosts who think that every time the president passes gas it deserves the banner “Breaking News.” The thing that really angered me this week was the reaction of people to Melania’s visit to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis.
I know that most of the insults were reserved for President Trump, particularly since he hasn’t had a very felicitous relationship with the head of my church up to this point. I recall a little dustup between them about who was really “Christian” and whether it’s ever appropriate to build a wall.
They seem to have put that behind them, even though the pictures depicting Donald and Francis look like a cross between American Gothic and a still from “The Exorcist.” But the haters couldn’t let it go. They ridiculed everything from the gift that the president gave the pope (first editions of Martin Luther King’s speeches) to Trump’s Pepsodent smile (you were expecting him to frown, for God’s sake?).
And still, I could deal with that because the president has opened himself up to bad jokes by not mastering the art of diplomacy and dignity.
On the other hand, Melania has. She has been nothing but sober, elegant, gentle, gracious and humble during her international junket. Her external beauty is obvious, and there is no question that she is the most physically exquisite first lady we have ever had. But she has also shown kindness and a depth that we haven’t heretofore seen, as when she slowed her pace to accommodate the halting steps of the Israeli president’s ailing wife, or when she visited a children’s hospital in Rome and spoke to the residents in their native language (one of the seven she speaks fluently).
And then I found out, to my great surprise, that she is a practicing Roman Catholic. When she bowed her head as the pope blessed a rosary in her hand, it was not a fabricated moment: She was spiritually moved. We have not considered this aspect of Melania, who is probably dealing with her own quiet Via Crucis, for a variety of reasons that I can suspect but not fully understand. She’s married to her husband, after all.
For that alone, and for the grace with which she has represented her adopted citizens, she deserves immense respect.
It’s about time the pink hat crowd started showing her some.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and can be reached at email@example.com.