“By our own example, we must teach children to be good stewards of the world they will inherit. We need to remember that they are always watching and listening,” she said. “It is our responsibility to take the lead in teaching children the values of empathy and communication that are at the core of kindness, mindfulness, integrity and leadership.”
Was that Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) chiding President Trump for his ongoing verbal cruelty directed at a pregnant Gold Star widow? Nope. An NFL player chiding Trump for his ongoing abuse of African American athletes who choose to exercise their First Amendment rights in quiet protest during the national anthem? Nope.
Maybe one of the many Republicans he has mocked with a childish nickname? A member of the media he singled out for hostile booing at a rally? Or the mayor of San Juan flabbergasted by Trump’s lack of empathy for more than 3 million Americans? Nope, not any of these.
That admonition came from first lady Melania Trump in a statement kicking off her week of anti-bullying advocacy. No, you cannot make this stuff up. Married to the man who has brought to the Oval Office more cruelty, vindictiveness, racism, xenophobia and misogyny than all his predecessors combined, Melania Trump visited seventh- and eighth-graders to tell them, “I think it’s very important to choose kindness and compassion.”
Her message is so devastatingly on point that you do wonder whether this is a passive-aggressive (well, maybe just aggressive) shaming of her husband, who has spent the past few days labeling an African American congresswoman a liar and effectively saying that a pregnant widow had lied as well. Surely Melania Trump knows that the president’s gratuitous insults, destructiveness (destroy Obamacare at the expense of the neediest Americans), miserliness and bombast are emblematic of the bullying behavior she warns children not to display. Do as I say, not as my husband does.
Then again, Melania Trump was among those who wrote off her husband’s recorded boasting about sexual assault as just locker-room talk.
President Trump has not “just” lowered the level of discourse, bred division and empowered neo-Nazis. He has done more than sully adults’ discourse and foster international animosity. Unsurprisingly, his own behavior is cited as a possible cause in the uptick in schools of — you guessed it — bullying. Mica Pollock, a professor of education at the University of California at San Diego, wrote for The Post last November:
Children and youth hear the words adults hear. They hear them on the Internet, over a shoulder and repeated by other kids on the playground or in the classroom. And words matter. They shape what young people think about themselves, each other, adults and their country.
From Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for president, young people have heard distorting claims about Mexicans as rapists to deport and distrust, of Muslims as violent anti-Americans who should be banned from entry to the United States, of African Americans as people living in hellish inner cities, of women as people to grope without permission, and of violence toward critics as admirable passion, to name just a few examples.
Such comments echo through school hallways, too. … Teachers reported that children and youth across the country were hearing Trump’s language on the news and restated in the mouths of peers. The report documents Latino, African American, and Muslim children, and children of immigrants, terrified and fighting with peers; reporting slurs and threats from peers that Trump would hurt or kill their families; and asking teachers whether their entire families (even as American citizens) would be deported, walled off or worse by Trump.
And that was two days before the presidential election, which rewarded the bully in chief with the most powerful job on the planet. That was before the president spent his first nine months demonstrating less self-control and worse manners than those seventh- and eighth-graders are expected to demonstrate. No wonder we have a bullying problem. Parents elected someone who reveled in his own bullying, and many of them still cheer him on. He is “telling it like it is,” they insist.
Melania Trump might sit her husband down and explain that a good way for adults to clamp down on bullying is to model kind, decent, compassionate behavior. She might also explain that bullies are invariably insecure children who need to pick on others so as to maintain their self-esteem. Melania Trump, you see, could tell the president that bullies are losers.