There are two reasons I can remember some of the details around the Iran-Contra scandal (re: weapons in exchange for hostages) that became public when I was a kid.
The lesser is that novelty shops were selling posters of a satirized Oliver North armed with a paper shredder. Secondly, and more importantly, I remember watching clips on the nightly news of President Ronald Reagan saying over and over, “I do not recall,” or “I don’t know” in response to congressional queries that were pretty straight forward. I looked to my dad in his recliner and my mom on the couch and thought to myself how darkly comical it was the president of the United States was giving answers that either of those two would have quickly shot down as unacceptable, had they come from my mouth.
I was not a perfect kid. I did some dumb things. I was terrible at transitioning to new stages of life, as well. Both in my first year of middle school and my freshman year of high school, my grades plummeted. Just as I had mastered one thing, it was on to something else, and I was ill-prepared for the academic and social changes.
But the oversight committee at my home kept me accountable. My folks made it clear it was my responsibility to make things right, whether it was a poor grade or something I had done. And even then, there was a price to be paid — grounding, usually — for a transgression. By those days, I wouldn’t have dreamed of using “I don’t know,” or “I don’t remember” as an answer in a sticky situation.
I think about that a lot in relation to our current president. Similar to my parents softening by the time my youngest sibling was growing up, some of the people handed the duty to hold the president accountable have little interest in that role.
I look at what’s happening at the White House and am regularly shocked, saddened, disappointed and more than a little embarrassed. I can’t imagine my younger self having brought home a bad grade and saying, “This report card totally exonerates me! Read it for yourself! I would love to tell my side of the story, but will be unavailable to do so. What’s for dinner?”
Equally ludicrous would be asking for another student to help me cheat, in front of my parents and teachers, then, when obviously caught, saying, “It’s a complete hoax! Mom, dad, this is nothing but a witch hunt by the socialist teachers who just can’t accept that I completed their tests with the most correct answers in school history!”
Would you accept those kinds of explanations or excuses from a child, when a preponderance of evidence tells you exactly what really happened?
Now, there are those parents who, in their eyes, have a kid that can do no wrong. That’s bad for the child in the long run, because they grow up with no understanding of the difference between success and failure, no sense of self-responsibility or accountability and no grasp of consequences for words and actions.
Right now, we’ve got a president who embodies all of those fatal flaws, and an unreasonably doting GOP that can’t or won’t open its eyes. Whether the president is impeached or not matters little in the grand scheme of things, because the federal process of checks and balances has been corroded by a shameless executive and a horde of congressional enablers.
Hopefully, kids watching these proceedings today also realize they wouldn’t get away with behaving and responding to authority in the same way our president has, from the moment his campaign began right up to present day. Rewarding petulance and buffoonery helps no one in the larger scheme of things, whether it’s the future of a kid or the future of the country at stake. Once that threshold is crossed, it takes longer, more intense work to mend the damage.