Helsinki — The Play — Chapter 7
White House — Dining Room — Evening
Trump and Melania having dinner. They sit next to each other. No one else is in the room.
Melania — You have good ideas.
Trump — What? Did I hear you correctly?
Melania — You do. I’ve been following the trade issue. China has been cheating us. Not only stealing our technology through forced transfers but also by heavily subsidizing industries that dump their cheap products onto our markets. You have brought attention to that. That’s good.
Trump — Thank you, Melania, thank you very much.
Melania — But the urgent need is to unite the nation… to help us reach our collective, higher self… which is where our greater riches lie.
Trump nods thoughtfully, then raises his glass of cider for a toast.
Trump — Here’s to my winning the trade war.
Melania (not raising her glass) — Not in favor.
Trump (smiling) — Can’t you just indulge your husband?
Melania — I have my political views.
Melania — You’re also combative and feisty, and that has mobilized something deep in the American psyche.
Trump — Thank you.
Melania — The nation was due for a good, internal fight, and we’re having it now. I think that’s why so many people voted for you.
Trump — That’s two compliments in one evening. I’m marking this day in my calendar.
Melania — People identified with you because you represent something raw. A will to make money, to push ahead, even if it means you rough up some folks along the way.
Trump — That I’ve done.
Melania — Even your lack of refinement has an appeal.
Trump (taken aback) — I’m not refined?
Melania — Of course not. But that’s part of your charm.
Trump (a dash of regret) — I always wanted to be refined.
Melania — Let it be. It’s not you. Obama, on the other hand, is refined.
Trump (irritated) — What?
Melania — He is. Look at his manner, his intellect, his gift for nuance and oratory.
Trump (stubbornly) — I am smart in my own way.
Melania — Of course you are. And it’s okay not to be on the same level as Obama.
Trump — You’re really coming after me, aren’t you?
Melania — Not at all. I love you. You’re just different.
Trump — Different?
Melania — Yes.
They pause, look at each other.
Melania — Go ahead, say it.
Trump — Say what?
Melania — That you’re different.
Trump — I’m not going to say it.
Melania — It’ll be good for you.
Trump — I’m not saying it.
Melania — Please.
He rubs his face, then smiles devilishly.
Trump — I’m different.
Melania — Good. A lot of people love you just as you are. Raw. Unrefined. And it’s okay. Being who you are touches their hearts. Americans elected Obama twice, because they wanted to be like the man.
Trump — White people wanted to be like him?
Melania — He couldn’t have got elected without White people.
Trump — True.
Melania — White people with prejudices, looked at Obama and said, ‘now, that’s a fellow I want to be like, even if he’s dark.’ And the thought astonished them because they saw how the power of the mind overcame the racial barrier. And why had they not done it before? Why had they overlooked the possibilities of education? Like during Reconstruction after the Civil War?
Trump — Blacks wanted too much… too soon…
Melania — What’s too soon about wanting the White man’s boot off your throat?
Trump — Change takes time.
Melania — Social courage is what went missing. But to my point. It’s hard to be like Obama. Certainly not in just 8 years. It’s going to take a lot longer and some heavy spending on education. It didn’t help that Republicans in both houses, filled with envy, decided to obstruct everything the man wanted to do during his term, as if they had said, ‘how dare the upstart address our structural problems?’
Trump — They did obstruct him, I admit.
Melania — Republicans were dead set against spending because it would raise the deficit and how immoral it would be to burden our children with debt. Spending which, by the way, would have benefitted your base also. Then you come along, cut taxes, the deficit goes through the roof and everyone is cheering, right?
He smiles with satisfaction.
Trump — Very soon, our coffers will be brimming.
Melania — it could go the other way.
Trump — It won’t.
Melania — Let’s hope. The nation was not ready for more Obama and Hillary came close to that.
Trump — Wait a second… Hillary is more refined than me?
Melania — Yes
Trump (slapping the table in exasperation) — No, she’s not!
Melania — In the eyes of the nation, electing a woman was a further refinement in our collective thinking. But it was too much. The psyche of the White American voter had found it difficult, having been governed for 8 years by a refined African American, the mere sight of whom was a reminder that White supremacy is an absurdity, to have him then be followed by a woman. No. Unacceptable. The psyche of the average White American voter needed time to readjust… and in the absence of a visionary candidate… chose to regress.
Trump — Regress?
Melania — Yes.
Trump — So I’m a regression?
Melania — A symbol of it.
Trump — That’s insulting.
Melania — Sadly, it came with a price… the targeting of minorities, the sanctioning of crude behavior against women, the further breakdown in the national dialogue.
Trump — You’re wrong, Melania… very wrong… yes, we needed a good fight… but we did because we were growing weak… and seeing that — which was my great insight — I reached down into our collective unconscious and stirred up the spirit of the frontier… I alone stirred up the feistiness, the greed and the combativeness that had made us great.
They look at each other for a moment.
Melania — But the world has changed, my dear, these are not the days of the frontier and that is not lost on White Americans. They know they have to change also. They know that in a few decades’ time, they will be a minority in this country.
Trump — We cannot have that.
Melania — It’s beyond you, you know that. White Americans know, that for the nation to remain an engine of growth and a dominant world economy, we need the strong backs of foreigners, be they Mexicans, Latin Americans, Arabs, Africans or Asian. White American women are simply not willing to devote their lives to popping out enough White children to take their places, and they’re not because they’ve discovered the pleasures and challenges of the mind.
He puts his elbows on the table, joining his hands. Staring off, he nods slightly.
Trump — So I’m a transitional figure, so to speak.
Melania — That’s a good way to put it. White America was essential to bringing the country to where it is now… and that achievement is their glory — leaving out the century of slavery and the century of Jim Crow — but they know that to continue to move forward, we need the world. Change is at our core. And part of the genius of the American mind has been to recognize the virtue of being inclusive.
He rises and walks off a few paces.
Melania — China is on our heels… and now, more than ever, we need openness… the belief in the nation’s transformative powers… the powers that nurture us… and which take the immigrant and makes them our brothers and sisters.
He turns around to face Melania who’s still seated at the table.
Trump — Let’s see how China survives the tariffs.
Melania — They stole technology from us but their talents knew how to take it and add value to it. And if they ever need the strong backs of other nations, they will invite them in. They know what isolation is. They paid dearly for it in the past.
He nods thoughtfully.
Trump — You think I’ll get reelected?
Melania — Doubt it.
Trump — How come?
Melania — We’re getting tired of your antics and want to get back to the business of nation building.
Trump — If I build the wall I’ll have a better chance.
Melania stares at him
Trump — Mind you, I know we don’t need a wall… but I’ll give them a wall anyway… a huge and expensive one… the more the better… so that my people can flock over and admire it, touch it, kiss it, climb on it, take selfies with it in the background… and Mexicans will build the wall… our Mexicans… because we need their labor… and at night their cousins and friends will find a way to climb up on top of it and drop down onto our soil… and we’ll catch them and send them back… only so they climb back up once more and do it all over again… because so long as our economy is stronger than theirs, the flow will not cease. I know that. My people know that, too.
Melania — But still you will build it…
Trump (smugly) — I keep my promises.
Melania — Billions of dollars that could go to training programs, for education…
Trump — And they will reelect me.
Melania — Why not give them the money instead?
Trump — They’re all good people, but they’ve been neglected for too long.
Melania — Neglected you say… by whom may I ask?
Trump — Why, by the political class…
Melania -… and the affluent, both of whom happen to be mostly White… so is it fair to point the finger at immigrants and minorities?
He gives her a long look.
Trump — Whoever said life was fair?
Melania — Understood. So maybe you should say that at your rallies, too.
Trump — You know… the democrats have an up and coming socialist wing… you might be interested in joining.
Melania — Let’s go for a walk.
They exit and a moment later they’re walking in the White House garden, side by side.
Trump — How do you think Helsinki is playing in the White American psyche?
Melania — Remember Charlottesville?
Trump — August 12th, 2017, how could I forget?
Melania — You equivocated then also.
Trump — Equivocated?
Melania — Both sides were at fault, you said then. Couldn’t commit. Same as in Helsinki.
Trump — So?
Melania — So the White American psyche is wondering… what’s with the waffling?
He stops and so does she. They face each other.
Trump — You have said you believe me when I say I didn’t collude…
Melania — I stand by that.
Trump — But do you think… even if it cannot be proven… that Russia’s interference in the election threw it my way?
Melania — I do.
He grimaces as he studies her expression… then takes a step back.
Trump — I know you’re unhappy, so why are you sticking around?
Melania — Because I still think you can be a good president.
Trump — Melania… I don’t think it’s in me to be a cheerleader for Mueller and his probe… I don’t think it’s in me to be a builder of dialogue between Right and Left… I appreciate your good intentions but that’s not going to happen. I’d rather lose the next election than compromise on what I believe. And I don’t think I’m committing political suicide.
I think we will win and keep control of both Houses… and victory will mean more deregulation and more defense spending… more tax cuts and less welfare, less foreign aid and more restrictive immigration… and that’s what I want to do… and if I go after one term, so be it… but I’m not going out… so I’ll have another term to choose even more supreme court justices, so my legacy will be enduring. I happen to like a bit of chaos in my life, and that’s who I am.
And I happen to think that most Americans want what I want, chaos included. And if down the line, reality tell us that we have to change course, then we’ll do so… but for now we’re doing just fine… breaking down boundaries… pushing the limits.
Trump — Am I being too blunt?
Melania — Not at all. It’s best to know where I stand.
Trump — This is not an act I’m putting on, this is who I am, and the great White American psyche seems to like me. Regression or not. Refinement or not.
She looks at the ground for a moment.
Trump — As far as inequality is concerned, I’m all for it. Some people have more drive than others and more brains than others and more imagination than others… and those people need plenty of rewards so they can keep creating wealth for everybody else… not that we don’t need the less gifted ones, sure we do, and the more educated they are the more they’ll learn to tame their resentments… the more they’ll learn to put up with their unsolved grievances. But most Americans want to be rich… rich like me… not do gooders… even it if means stepping on others as they climb up the ladder. The really smart figure it out, they always have, they get on with it and don’t complain. So It has been for ever and ever, and so it will be, for ever and ever.
She looks him in the eye.
Trump — The trade war is just the beginning… and I will make alliances with the wealthy and creative all over the world… and my people will love me for that… because deep in their hearts and minds, that’s how they see themselves.
Melania — Even if the majority will never get there.
Trump — You die trying.
Melania — I suppose, then, that you have no intention of making a public apology to American women, like you once said you would?
Trump — I’ve gone back and forth on that but I don’t think so.
Melania — Why not?
Trump — Because powerful men have privileges…
Melania — The privilege to harass…?
Trump — If you let me get away with it. And if women don’t like it, then go ahead and bitch, and march and complain and unite and form a political party if you want… and let’s fight it out. I have no idea where that will end… maybe it will end in some kind of new sexual equality… but you have to fight for it. And to be frank, why shouldn’t you win that fight? You’re a greater number that men in this country.
Trump — But something holds you back. Why did Hillary lose? It wasn’t Russian interference… it was because women let themselves down. But nobody’s talking about that. I do not hear women criticizing themselves, lamenting that they didn’t seize the opportunity.
Melania — Excuse me, I was the one that made that point about women.
Trump — You did, and a good one it was, too. Hillary wasn’t perfect, we all know that, but she was a seasoned politician… a woman who had been through some tough fights in her life… and her own kind just blew her off. Instead of saying, ‘Okay, Hillary has some flaws, but she’s a woman’s woman for crying out loud, so let’s go with her’. Instead of doing that, you waffled… and I got in.
He smiles with satisfaction.
Trump — So I owe much to waffling.
Melania — It’s coming back to haunt you.
He walks off a few paces, then turns around to face her again.
Trump — What happened to your Women’s Party, a while back you talked about getting one going?
Melania — I did talk about it… and you asked me not to do it.
Trump — Well, you need to do what you think is right.
Melania — Yes.
She walks over to the window, crossing her arms as she looks out, pensively.
Trump — Go for it. See if women can really unite… not just talk about it and complain about what men do and don’t do.
She pulls open the drapes a bit more. She doesn’t look at him as she speaks.
Melania — Women have never stopped fighting. Nature put the fight in us… not only to struggle to be all we can be but also to take pause at some point during our lifetime… to create human beings and to nurture them… and it is a noble fight indeed… so, no, we’re no stranger to the good fight. We raise and nurture you and all men alike… only to see you then turn around and devalue us… do violence to us, as if you were afraid of your origins. Man’s story is the story of denying us opportunity… denying us access to education, access to the vote, denying us equal pay, denying us control over our bodies… we’ve had to fight for every single one of those gains… and it has gone on and on to this day…
Now turning to him.
… so don’t you dare sing the praises of inequality when you have known nothing but privilege… and know nothing about the treasures hidden in those who have been deemed less gifted. It’s painful to see you stand there and carry on with your drivel… for it speaks loudly of your disconnect with history. And then you justify your crude behavior toward women, and have the audacity to ask us to fight some more… speaking as if you were exempt from examining yourself and finding fault with your own behavior.
There is a profound rift in the nation… and you intend to address it by telling us that putting more money in our pockets is the solution.
She holds her face in her hands and then slowly brushes back her hair.
He walks over to stand by her side.
Trump — I didn’t mean to offend you.
Melania — You did. You paint yourself as the great fighter… but tell me… was that you fighting Putin in Helsinki?
Trump — Putin is part of the elite of this world… like it or not. He’s sitting on top of a lot of gas and oil and a pile of nuclear weapons… and like him or not… he’s managed to convince a lot of Russians to cheer him on. And he has growing fans in other nations as well. That’s reality.
Melania — So you give him a pass?
Trump — He’s got nothing on me. Even if he’s lying and did know of the interference in our election… or directed it… I got in on my own… and I couldn’t have done it without American women.
She nods slowly.
Trump — I you ever get it together on the idea of the Women’s Party… that should be up there on the agenda to discuss.
Melania — Feeling pretty confident, aren’t you?
Trump — Why shouldn’t I? GDP went over 4 percent, bull market is going strong… NATO members are paying up on defense… I’m renegotiating NAFTA… we’ll give it another name… unemployment is low… and people have more money in their pockets. America is finding itself again.
He goes to her, gives her a kiss on the forehead.
Trump — I’ll be at the office for a while.
And he exits.
Oscar Valdes. Oscarvaldes.net. Podcasts in Anchor.fm, apple, google and buzzsprout.
This play was published as a book in 2018. It is available on Amazon.