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The problem with Melania Trump's 'Be Best' campaign

oneafrica 17 Jan 31
Melania shares the hardest part of job

(CNN)Melania Trump still wants to help kids. She marked the second anniversary of her husband's administration by tweeting: "Our work in the East wing continues into 2019 with online safety, fighting opioid abuse & supporting the well-being of children everywhere! #BeBest"

After she posted the message, including the reference to her "Be Best" campaign, citizen critics had a field day with replies like "Except for the brown ones at the border" and "keep children in the best cages?"

The internet can be a nasty place, but in this case, the mockery is well-deserved. As national mother figures, first ladies have often championed kids. For any other first lady, awkward phrasing aside, "Be Best" would have been a safe choice. The trouble here is that her husband, the bullying and graceless Donald Trump, is very bad for kids.

The most tragic examples of President Trump's anti-child agenda involve those who turned to America for salvation and were met, instead, by trauma and death. Thousands of asylum-seeking children who traveled to the southern border have been separated from their parents and locked-up in fenced-in enclosures and camps. With experts warning of lifelong consequences, the practice continued. Authorities reported more than 2,700 separations, but recently admitted that thousands more may have been locked away.

No uncertainty attends the deaths of two of the separated children who died while in federal custody. Seven-year-old Jakelin Caal and 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo survived the grueling passage from Guatemala only to die on American soil.

Others have suffered the emotional and physical torment of separation from their parents and incarceration in unacceptable conditions. As the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics said, "These detention centers are bad. They're cold, the lights are on 24/7, there are open toilets, and as a child, if you're not sick you can get sick."

No medical degree was required to understand the hazard the Trump administration embraced as it pursued its cruel and unusual treatment of the asylum-seeking families. Complaints about unsanitary conditions and inadequate medical care were made months before the two children died. But if the administration can't even keep track of the number of children it has detained, why would we expect them be kept safe and healthy?

If the detention center deaths were a predictable consequence of bad policy and inept administration, the continued suffering of a Syrian teen blocked from getting medical care in the US is a case of knowing and intentional cruelty inflicted moment-by-moment. The 16-year-old Syrian girl named Marwa was disfigured when a bomb struck her home.

Syria is on the list of predominantly Muslim countries targeted by Trump's travel ban, so even though Marwa is now in Germany, the administration won't let her get surgery in Boston, according to the Guardian.

Others blocked by the policy include a 7-year-old Somali boy whose father has died and whose mother lives in the US. A Yemeni mother was permitted to visit to say goodbye to her dying child, but only after international celebrities took up her cause. Those who seek waivers without celebrity assistance suffer a 98% rejection rate.

The tragic irony of mercy granted on the basis of celebrity seems a fitting illustration of the Trump era. A president whose own self-constructed celebrity was key to his election could hardly be expected to cast a wary eye on a system that empowers the famous. A far less crass public figure, the first lady should have been given the benefit of the doubt when she announced her "Be Best" campaign for kids, and she received positive press when she visited the border facility in Texas last June. She undercut the effort by wearing a jacket decorated with the weird message "I really don't care, do u?" But she deserved credit for going where her husband had not.

Six month later, Melania Trump's credits have expired and her husband's administration has continued its malign agenda. In an apparent slap at his predecessor, whose own first lady made child nutrition a focus, the administration has decided that it would be okay to take some of the nutrients out of school lunches and replace them with sugar and salt. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says kids threw out too many of the healthy lunches because they didn't like the taste. The new standard will stop the waste. Advocates say Perdue was completely wrong on the facts, but his rules will cut costs and permit food companies to sell more highly-processed and less-perishable stuff to school buyers.

Equally concerning is the data on children and health insurance. In the first year of the Trump administration, the number of children not covered by insurance increased for the first time since 2008. Does anyone think a child can "Be Best" without check-ups or inoculations?

In fact, there are some Americans who do think kids should be spared vaccines, and the President himself has cast doubt on vaccination requirements. This doubt is so lacking in merit, and so readily refuted by science, that it should be a simple thing for the first lady to address with her husband, with whom she lives in the White House. Turn him around on this topic, and next she might persuade him to feed schoolchildren properly and even reunite all the boys and girls separated at the border with their parents. "Being Best" should start in the home.