28 June 2018
Just a slogan.
By Robert Kilconnor
Am I the only person who feels sorry for Melania Trump? She is not a professional politician and either out of compassion or to help her husband – or more probably a mixture of the two – she decided to visit one of the detention centres on the Mexican border. All would have been well but unfortunately her jacket sported the logo “I really don’t care, do u?” and immediately the media were upon her, with many half-witted commentators taking the logo as somehow reflecting her views on migrants.
It is all the most terrible tosh. Obviously she simply didn’t make the connection between the fashion logo and the visit she was about to make. How could it possibly be otherwise? Yes, it would have been better if she or one of her staff had spotted it, but they didn’t. It was simply a mistake and says nothing whatever about her feelings for refugees. That, surely, is obvious.
All of us make mistakes of this sort occasionally and I recall a friend of mine telling me how he went to stay in the country to attend the funeral of a relative. It was a large house and the evening before the funeral was a gloomy one. The coffin was in the master bedroom on the first floor and my friend thought it would be helpful to distract the attention of the grieving assembly with an anecdote. He had little difficulty in finding one. Only that morning he had been very amused to hear an American describing a rather stuffy London hotel as “just like a duke’s house, with the duke lying dead upstairs” so he began, chuckling happily, to recite the story for the benefit of all present. He got well into the punchline before he saw where it was going and by then it was too late to stop. Fortunately no one noticed or, if they did, they pretended not to.
The unfortunate phrase uttered in private may be easily ignored but some gaffes are harder to overlook. A few years ago an undergraduate at Queens College Cambridge was standing on the stone bridge which crosses the Cam a few yards upstream when he spotted a punt full of his friends approaching with a picnic hamper sitting in the bows. It seemed a pity that they should be deprived of his company and it would be amusing to surprise them. The bridge is a fairly low one. So he hung over it by his hands and dropped into the middle of the punt. All might have been well had the punt been a new one, but unfortunately it was not and he travelled straight on through the punt which sank leaving the occupants, clad in soaking blazers and frocks, to climb out of the river. It was as he climbed out that he realised he had made a mistake. No, not just the mistake about the strength of punts. He was already aware of that one. It was just that when he looked at the dripping figures more closely, he realised that he had never seen any of them before in his life. I do not think he waited to see whether they were polite enough to ignore what had happened.
Melania’s error was not of that order and a poor light is cast on those who have tried to take advantage of it. The truth is of course that when you visit the scene of a tragedy or disaster, it is difficult to present yourself in a way that satisfies the media. Do you remember Mrs May being criticised for not hugging the survivors of Grenfell Tower? The media were after her like rats on that one and it fell to Jeremy Corbyn to explain to the public that not everyone expressed their grief in the same way. That was a decent and charitable approach and it would be better if decency and charity rose to the top in the approach taken to Melania’s unfortunate slogan.