what has once been seen cannot be unseen

(screen shot via youtube)

I am filled with grief this morning for Melania Trump.

I watched her husband’s tasteless speech at the Al Smith charity dinner last night, in which he repeatedly and grotesquely insulted Hillary Clinton to her face. [Apparently this event has a longstanding tradition of both presidential candidates showing up to “roast” one another.] And I noted the ease with which Trump shifted into humiliating Melania as a tactic to garner audience support.

When the audience laughed—and laugh they did, breaking for a moment the tension of that excruciating speech—they laughed because for a moment his target felt like a safe one. What husband would say such a thing if his wife weren’t in on the joke, right? And maybe they laughed because they slipped into the same blurred distinctions as Donald, using his wife as a lightning rod for their discomfort with him just as he jabbed at her in a pretense of self-deprecating humor.

But a wife is not mere extension of the man she has married. Make no mistake: that was spousal abuse on display last night, as Trump commanded Melania to stand for the people laughing at him making fun of her. When he admitted that he had not warned her in advance of the humiliation he had planned, he used her own loyalty against her and cornered her into either immediately absolving him or making a scene at a hugely public event.

I am so sad for her. Chances are, she’s under such a constant barrage of manipulation and control that she cannot even acknowledge her own pain to herself. I know I couldn’t, when I was that wife. When I was living with that husband. And no one—no matter how wealthy, no matter how privileged—no one deserves emotional torture.

If you watched the speech but didn’t notice the abuse—if you feel like I’m exaggerating; if you’re thinking “yeah, what he said was bad, but not THAT bad”—then please know that Trump has turned you too into his unwitting dupe. Your inability to see the violence provides an abuser one more weapon for isolating his victim and detaching her from reality.

I hope she gets away someday. I hope she gets away before the inevitable physical and sexual abuse has gotten too terrible (if it hasn’t already). I hope she gets away while enough of her still exists that she can live through it.

Not all of us do.
For them too, I am so very, very sad.

17 thoughts on “what has once been seen cannot be unseen

  1. So right. I have dealt with several Narcissists, most of whom were abusive mates to female friends and colleagues. I can’t believe how many people in America don’t spot it. How awful (or nice?) it must be to not recognize it.
    Just last night, I asked a friend, “How’s the Narcissist’s new baby?”
    I hope Mrs Nominee can escape intact as well, because some of the damage is permanent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh thank you, darlin’, I don’t feel especially heroic. Just terrified that people don’t see what I am seeing, what I went to the very ends of myself to survive. I watch that man and it’s my father and my mom, it’s my father and me, it’s me and my ex. Over and over and over…

      That some people can watch this particular performance and call the problem nothing more than “joke work”?? I have only two choices: write a blog post about it — or pour the ashes of damned souls over my head and run naked and howling into the void.

      Hence: blog post.


  2. It is with leviathan compunction that I confess that at the beginning of his “joke” I lost my scowl because I thought he was going to make a self-deprecating comment about the galactic plot against him. I even remained “un-scowled” when he brought Melania into it, but then … my Irish skin began to burn with fury and turn it’s classic shade of red (I think I actually watched the rest of his “speech” in red) when he advertised that the joke was conclusively more deprecating to his wife.

    While the Al Smith dinner can be a “roast” of sorts during election years, the remarks are generally more mischievous in nature, he was downright malicious.

    No doubt, he grabs women by the pus – I mean vagina and the psyche.


  3. Even a healthy marriage is delicate. I might be a geek but I feel like my husband should never hear me disparage him in the slightest bit, not even a joke and vice versa. I didn’t watch the event but I am not surprised that Trump is not aware of how valuable a good partner is.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tho I don’t believe there’s any reason to believe he wants a “partner.” Not in any sense of the word you or I would recognize as meaningful!


  4. I wonder about that woman. Is she as benign as she seems, embracing the dutiful wife role? Or is she some sort of fiendish manipulator behind the scenes like Raymond’s mother [played by Angela Lansbury] in The Manchurian Candidate? Everything about Melania does not ring true to me. However, if what you wrote above is the real Mrs. Trump, then I agree with you 100%. She needs to protect herself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would caution against trying to find one aspect of her that is the “true” or “real” person. Few of us are either 100% benign or 100% malevolent, and abuse victims are no different. I am also leery about interpreting her “dutiful” wifely-ness as all one thing or another either: even if I take on a role willingly and happily, it still becomes a whole ‘nother ball of wax if my partner gives me no choice or agency to ever leave that role or shift my identity.

      Two symptoms very common in abuse situations: 1) the victim starts to become abusive or manipulative to others, since aligning with the abuser can feel like a means of self-protection (think of Melania trash-talking the women accusing Donald of assault, for instance; also, she’s only human — rage that she can’t safely express at her husband is gonna come out in other, less healthy ways). And 2) abusers often position themselves as the true victim within the relationship, and their partner as the one who’s ~really~ manipulative, domineering, in control, etc. It’s a total gaslighting move that keeps the victim off-balance in private and cut off from other, outside support — because observers come to think of her as the true power in the partnership, as well. (Consider how many times in the interview with Anderson Cooper, Melania referenced Donald as really being just a child, a boy, like another young son she has to care for. Getting her to think of him that way gives him a built-in excuse for any bad behavior, as well as grounds for calling her unreasonable anytime she asks for him to behave like a respectful, responsible adult.)

      Finally, even if she’s a totally nasty rotten person I wouldn’t want to know? I still have compassion for what she’s suffering; I still think she deserves to live free from abuse. Everyone does.

      Liked by 4 people

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