By now, it has become famous—or infamous, depending on your viewpoint. Whatever your point of view might be, it wasn’t “just a jacket” as her spokespeople tried to convince us when they sought to backpedal, but a “fashion statement” that painted the Trump Regime from head to toe (almost).
I’m talking, of course, about Melania Trump’s field jacket, the one she wore to the US-Mexico border in what can only be seen as a failed attempt at a forced damage control mission after her husband enacted a nefarious policy that ended up with government-caged child hostages and migrant families separated with no real assurance of being reunited. The jacket was a common enough army green field jacket (marketed by Zara at about US$40), but on the back was emblazoned a strange message considering that she was heading to a place where there was real suffering going on—suffering for which her husband was entirely to blame: “I DON’T REALLY CARE, DO U?
There were numerous theories as to why Melania had worn the jacket. Few of them were naïve enough to express a belief that she wasn’t sending a message, or that she just grabbed the first thing off the coat rack by the kitchen door.
A London tabloid thought that “it must, MUST, be a hoax.” But no, her staff immediately jumped to the defense of her “fashion” choice. Melania’s spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham offered a “no theory theory.” It was just a jacket. There was no hidden massage. The president tweeted a (fake) theory of his own. It was, he said, a message “to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!” Perhaps the kindest theory of all was the one who had poor little rich girl Melania sending a private message to her mean old husband: It was a way of telling her husband: “I really don’t care” about how much you want to crack down on the borders; this isn’t fair to children. Another theory was that it was a message to The Don about their own personal relationship. Since the stories about porn star Stormy Daniels having gone to bed with Trump, Melania has been conspicuous by her absence from many events where she might be expected to accompany her husband. But then again, she’s been capricious about accompanying him ever since his presidency began. Still others thought the message was precisely about that, her absence from the scene and media speculation about where she was. This one seemed to me particularly far-fetched. The harshest theory was that it was a message to the migrants themselves, telling them, in short, that if they came into the country illegally and had their kids taken from them, then they deserved it and she didn’t care about their plight.
I have a theory of my own—which is no better or worse than anybody else’s—and since we may never know whether Melania was really trying to tell somebody something or she's just such an air-head that she put on a stupid, trendy jacket without even stopping to think what it said on the back, here goes: I think that Trump, in his usual contradictory way, put a policy in place without weighing the consequences. Typical executive that he is, he wanted to blame someone else for the immediate fallout. So when he decided to backtrack and try to fob the blame off on Democrats, he wanted to underscore the move by having his wife show the same kind of dismay and empathy displayed by Republican former First Lady Laura Bush. I submit that he very likely ordered Melania to go to the region where migrants and their children were being detained and she balked. Eventually, he or his staff talked her into it, but she wasn’t happy about going, so she decided to send her husband a message through the TV screen, which is where most of his focus is most of the day. The message: I’m going but only because you’re making me, And frankly, Donald, I don’t give a damn.
Certain people on both sides of the running political war in the US seek consistently to justify Melania and to give her a break. The left, because she has several times shown contempt for and disagreement with her husband, more through body language than anything else, and without translating her rebellion into public statements. And the right because, in their eyes, Melania is an extension of Trump, and for them, Trump can do no wrong. But the only way not to be complicit with someone as monstrously insensitive, authoritarian, racist, isolationist, misogynistic and hateful as the current US president is by taking clear distance from him, and the First Lady (in point of fact The Third Lady, if you don’t count Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, who clearly takes priority over his latest wife) continues to serve his purposes, no matter what might happen between them in private or what pranks she plays on him in public.
Whatever the case may be, the message on Melania’s jacket can’t be explained away. It was, at best, a childish, vulgar display of defiance toward the mission she was being sent on by her husband. At worst, it was a symptom of the contempt in which the Trumps and their regime hold human rights and the suffering of others.
In short, the American public and the world have no reason to have to interpret the allegedly minute nuances of an overtly crass and callous message displayed as if on a billboard across the US First Lady’s back. People take it at face value and at face value, it is a slap in the face to all of those who are suffering injustice at the hands of the current administration and to any decent person who believes in the feelings of others and in the sanctity and legitimacy of human rights.