It has been a generally difficult week to be tuning into the news. Over the past week, stories of families being separated at the southern border of the United States have proliferated, reaching a breaking point as President Donald Trump signed an ambiguous executive order that he says will keep families together. It seems as if the entire nation is following the lives of these families, and yet, the people closest to being able to fix the problem have been acting as if it's a trivial worry, if their public actions have been any indication. If you've been paying attention to what Trump's staff and family have been doing as families are separated at the border, you may have found yourself asking, over and over again, what are they thinking? From restaurant choices to sartorial ones, it's been an eyebrow-raising week.
Last week, a set of reporters were allowed to visit detention centers for children who crossed the border and were alone when they arrived or had been separated from their parents by the government. This raised awareness and, thus, questions about the administration's immigration policies, especially where it concerned children and those seeking asylum.
More than 2,000 children were separated from their parents at the border between early May and mid June, per the Department of Homeland Security. This is because of the "zero tolerance" policy, which was announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions (a Republican and Trump appointee) in April. With that policy, all adults are taken away to be prosecuted for the crime of crossing a border, while all children are held in governmental centers.
This has caused a mass of protests, calls to Congress, donations, and general criticisms of the administration, which continues to falsely place blame on Democrats and Congress at large for the situation. As this is going on, Trump staff and family members have carried on with their lives, leaving us with these unbelievable moments.
As it turns out, Nielsen wasn't the only Trump affiliate to be craving Mexican this week. Stephen Miller, a White House senior adviser, also stopped by a Mexican restaurant on Sunday night.
"Hey look guys, whoever thought we’d be in a restaurant with a real-life fascist begging [for] money for new cages?" a customer asked, according to the New York Post, apparently referring to the "cages" children are being kept in.
On Tuesday night, during an appearance on Fox News, Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski replied "womp womp" to a story about a 10-year-old child with Down syndrome who was separated from her mother.
Lewandowski's defense? He wasn't mocking the 10-year-old girl split from her mother, he was mocking people who care about her.
On Tuesday, June 19, the Trumps hosted the king and queen of Spain for a diplomatic visit. Fine.
But then, the first lady tweeted.
In her tweet about the meeting, Melania Trump mentioned "positively impact[ing] children," which was clearly a cringeworthy idea, given that the only thing going around the news that day was how her husband's policies were harming children.
Vanessa Trump is largely unrelated to the administration and its policies. But for her last name, she has not been a part of the White House and is, in fact, in the process of divorcing Don Jr.
But then, on Wednesday morning, she had to go and tweet about her kids. This, like Miller and Nielsen's restaurant choice, could've been innocuous. However, Vanessa Trump posted pictures of her kids playing in tents, in a week where news about kids being separated from their parents and forced into tents in the sweltering Texas heat permeated the news. It was not a great idea.
And here you have yet another example of a gaffe that could have been so easily avoided with just a touch of thinking. On her way to visit kids at the border — nice! — on Thursday, Melania Trump donned a jacket reading, "I really don't care, do u?"
Stephanie Grisham, the first lady's spokeswoman, said it was just "a jacket" with "no hidden message." This prompted many to reply: yeah, the message on that jacket isn't super vague.
With the exception of Lewandowski, each of these instances were unrelated to direct policy and could easily be written off as just a lack of thinking — not thinking about the implications of eating at a Mexican restaurant, of kids playing in tents, of a warm jacket on a cloudy day. But that lack of thinking is, in itself, indicative of a larger lack of concern. Being able to not think too much — about that kid's toy, that food craving, that outerwear — is a privilege.
The apparent lack of self-awareness in these choices, meanwhile, is arguably indicative of a separation of each person from the issue at hand — the president's proud of Nielsen's press briefing appearance, so she did her job and can eat where she pleases; Melania's doing her work with #BeBest, and that's enough for kids in America; it's not like Vanessa can just call up her father-in-law and ask him to think about his policies.
Some people on Twitter have been arguing that these are pointed decisions in order to bait and ignite liberals, to give conservatives a talking point that liberals care about petty things too much. I don't think it's that deep or concerted. Although of course I'm not a mind reader, I think it is, plain and simple, a lack of care. Complicity and inaction are choices. But 2,342 children didn't have choices, and tonight, they are sleeping far away from their parents and families.