Melania Trump has opened up about her brush with the pandemic on the White House’s website—in a bizarrely breezy post titled “My personal experience with COVID-19.”
The actual piece of news in this slice-of-life diary entry is that the first son, Barron Trump, also had the coronavirus, testing positive at some point after his parents did. That a minor in the White House (or wherever Barron lives) quietly had COVID is not a huge revelation, especially because he did not exhibit symptoms and has since tested negative. Melania, who has not been out campaigning, also reported that she has now tested negative herself. This is a good outcome.
But her dispatch is more notable because it offers us a window into how she thinks about COVID-19 and herself—or at least, how she wants us to think she thinks about those things. The results are both a little disturbing and, if you are in right frame of mind for it, darkly funny.
Melania details her experience with symptoms, mostly aches and fatigue. While her husband went to Walter Reed, “I chose to go a more natural route in terms of medicine, opting more for vitamins and healthy food,” she—or a spokesperson—writes. Yes, it seems the first lady willed a salad into curing her of a novel pathogen. More likely is that the president’s illness was significantly worse than hers. With a mild case of COVID, the medical advice is to tend to symptoms, keep an eye on things, and then ride it all out at home. (In her case, “home” is the White House, a location with its own medical unit and caretakers—which, to her credit, she acknowledges.)
“It was an unfamiliar feeling for me to be the patient instead of a person trying to encourage our nation to stay healthy and safe,” continues Melania. “It was me being taken care of now, and getting first-hand experience with all that COVID-19 can do.” Her main effort in taking care of America is probably her “Be Best” initiative. To jog your memory, this is the thing that is in part about “teaching our children uplifting, positive, and respectful online interactions,” and how they can “avoid negative social media interaction.” That effort from the White House does not, on balance, seem to be going well.
Melania goes on to say that she has “thought about the hundreds of thousands of people across our country who have been impacted by this illness,” which is a straight-up misstatement of magnitude. The number of people who have been impacted by this illness is: everyone! It’s everyone. And if we’re going just with confirmed cases—not even loved ones of those people, and likely to be a lowball of the actual number of cases—it is, at this time, 8 million people, i.e., many, many hundreds of thousands.
With President Trump away at the hospital, Melania says she had time to reflect—useful because “with the election fast approaching, it has been easy to get caught up in so much negative energy.” Ultimately, she writes that she hopes that “COVID-19 will be another obstacle we will be able to tell future generations we overcame,” followed by a paragraph that reads like a not-so-subtle rib of her husband:
I encourage everyone to continue to live the healthiest life they can. A balanced diet, fresh air, and vitamins really are vital to keep our bodies healthy. For your complete well-being, compassion and humility are just as important in keeping our minds strong. For me personally, the most impactful part of my recovery was the opportunity to reflect on many things—family, friendships, my work, and staying true to who you are.
The responsibility to make COVID-19 be an obstacle “we overcame” falls, of course, not on the American government, but to each American to maintain “the healthiest life they can,” and for good measure, function with “compassion and humility.” Closing out her note offering those suffering from COVID-19 nothing more than thoughts and prayers, it seems that she’s hoping that compassion and humility is extended, specifically, to her.
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