Of all the controversial statements and moves in Trump’s campaign so far, I am the most personally offended by yesterday’s. It was just such a trolling of epic proportions on the American public. Full disclosure: I’m a 10th grade Writing teacher who spends a significant amount of my life teaching how to summarize ethically and cite sources, and the importance of academic honesty and originality. I still remember the first time I called a parent to discuss her son’s plagiarism and she hysterically shouted, “Well, if my son plagiarized it’s only because you don’t teach him not to!” Fortunately, we had just finished a summarizing and plagiarism unit that very day.
I’ve read some ridiculous defenses of the integrity of Melania’s speech, but every single one would not hold water in a 10th grade English class. (Yes, it’s still plagiarism if 93% of the speech is not plagiarized. No, just because it reflects how you think doesn’t mean it’s not plagiarized. No, there are not only “so many combinations of words in the English language.” And every other excuse would get an F on any high school writing assignment as well.) I am not only offended as an English teacher, but as a mother, as this is yet another case of not only setting a terrible example for our children, but then not taking a single ounce of ownership for such a huge fucking lapse in judgment. I know Selma Blair’s airplane meltdown of a couple weeks ago wasn’t as high profile or high stakes as this, but that’s how you own up to your shit and make amends.
Beyond the shrugging off plagiarism from a potential first lady, I’ve come across several infuriating deflection tactics. Conspiracy theorists claiming speech writers were bribed. Bizarrely, even before Hillary Clinton addressed the scandal (to my knowledge as of this writing, she still has not), the Trump campaign, in another fit of staggering misogyny blamed Clinton for the backlash. Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager stated to CNN, “This is once again an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, how she seeks out to demean her and take her down.”
Honestly, I just can’t.
Just…. how the fuck are we here?
Then there are people taking the Melania criticism even beyond the plagiarism itself. Pointing out there was nothing actually personal or compelling in the speech. It was nothing but hollow platitudes. There are cries of poor Melania, she never asked for any of this. English is not her first language. Fair enough and I don’t disagree, but I also can’t help but notice how easy it is to sympathize with an attractive person.
But the criticism that seems to be lacking in all this is that once again Trump’s bumbling ineptitude is on dazzling display. And once again there are some impressive mental gymnastics happening to explain or condone it. There is a difference between a Washington outsider with a fresh perspective and someone who just doesn’t know what the fuck they are doing on seemingly every level and blithely going for it anyway. Michelle Obama didn’t write her 2008 speech entirely on her own. No one, including myself, would’ve faulted Melania for using all the help she can. Regardless of who actually thought it was not going to escape us or upset us to use two plagiarized paragraphs from a speech of the same exact purpose eight years ago, there is simply no excuse that it passed through all the filters. To people who think this is a small matter, we’re making a mountain out of a molehill, there are bigger problems in the world, I say: this matter is everything. Anyone who would defend or in any way attempt to minimize or deflect from this is saying that this is an acceptable example of integrity for our children and an acceptable level of quality management (on a fairly simple and straightforward task) from the person proposing to hold our highest executive office – seriously, he could’ve hired any 2016 high school valedictorian for a few hundred bucks!
Before I sign off, I also have to point out that it’s pretty rich that the lifted passages speak of integrity and values.
Finally, your panties may be all twisted up your ass crack right now, thinking, But Hillary’s a crooked liar who deserves to rot in prison!! That is not what we are talking about right now, and not an appropriate or compelling argument to the topic at hand. That is a separate topic for a separate conversation, and by bringing it up, you are trying to deflect from a conversation that you apparently have no legitimate argument against.
If Clinton had done the exact same thing, the only difference in my response would be that I’d be more surprised.