Melania Trump took her first lady cause: stopping bullies.
In her first public release on this issue, she made a surprising trip Monday to a high school in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, in the suburb of Detroit, where she talked with children to be inclusive and see herself. “I think it’s important to choose kindness and compassion,” she said
She is, of course, married to the main Internet bully, who has been using Twitter for insulting a Republican US senator in recent days, ridiculed a Democratic Party congressman, hated Hillary Clinton, condemned the National Football League, condemned the media and accused the grieving widow of the killed Green Barrett on lying.
Is Ms. Trump sincerely attributable to this dissonance? Does she care about the perceptions of insincerity, or is she trying to distance her husband, and even take a hidden slap in it?
Let’s set the motives aside for now. Whatever happens, it is worth giving her program a fair shake. Why not think about what it actually proposes, and whether it will work?
Unfortunately, it’s hard to say because it does not appear to be a big part of the proposal. StopBullying.gov exists, but it was founded under President Barack Obama. Ms. Trump made a few anti-harassment speech – Michigan trip this week, and last month at the United Nations – but they do not go much further than “be nice.”
In Michigan, she supported the Day of One’s Day, which was trying to make the children sit together at lunch, but that was certainly not an idea of Mrs. Trump, the initiative has existed for several years. Her official travel statement was long a warning for fostering courtesy, but briefly for any political agenda or suggestions for practical steps that could be taken by institutions to combat abuse.
“With our own example, we must teach children to be good stewarders of the world who will inherit them,” said the first lady in a statement. “We should remember that they always see and hear. It is our responsibility to take the lead in learning children about the values of empathy and communication that are at the heart of kindness, awareness, integrity and leadership.”
It is a feeling that reminds us of the deception Hillary Clinton’s advertisement of the election campaign in 2016, featuring footage from Trump’s candidate, as she remembered before cheering on the people, the days when violence was accrued to political opponents, telling Don Lemon at the CNN interview that Megan Kelly has “blood that comes out of her wherever he is,” and mocks a reporter with a disability. “Our children are watching,” Clinton warned. “What example will we set for them?”
Mrs. Trump is obviously worried about the same thing. The fight against bullying is a worthwhile reason. That Mrs. Trump is the first lady for nine months, without actually doing anything to bullying out of speech and photo-ops is a disappointment, but it’s not too late.
The first lady should invite many anti-bullying organizations across the country, as well as technical leaders and respected education experts (who would prevent the Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos) to discuss the landscape of harassment today (much of this is happening in social media), the challenges faced by educators and parents, when so much of children’s harassment occurs electronically, from their vision and potential solutions, from technical to social to legal.
Ms Trump also needs to move beyond indifference and recognize that bullying often reflects other social dynamics and hierarchy, including misogyny, racism, classism, and homophobia. Girls are still sexually abused and even attacked in school, children are attacked for their skin color, children bully each other because they are too rich or too poor, and homosexuals who are considered homosexual remain targets of terrible abuse.
Who knows – if Mrs Trump really does think about it, she may even be able to stop Twitter away from the most visible bully in the country.