The debate over the impeachment of President Donald Trump is — and will continue to be — a goldmine of impassioned sound bites easily packaged and distributed through media. And if you’re the kind of parent who gives a shit about the health of the United States constitution, your kid will likely find themselves within hearing or watching-distance of a red-faced House representative. But all that passion can be confusing for kids who tend to believe the amount of emotion shown around a claim is commensurate with the veracity of the claim. Mister Rogers understood this and took it upon himself to help kids understand that just because you feel something does not make it true — you might feel like a bad kid, but that doesn’t make you a bad kid.
The same goes for impeachment: You might feel with all your heart that the president did not commit an abuse of power and obstruction of justice, but that does not mean it’s true. You may feel confident that in his actions with Ukraine, president Trump was proving himself to be a Russian asset and puppet of Putin, but that doesn’t make that true either. Feelings are not facts and the House is offering kids a perfect learning moment — if parents are willing to take advantage of it.
For instance, your kid might hear representative Clay Higgins brusquely claim that the president has a mandate because the map he’s standing next too is mostly red. The passion with which Higgins makes that claim could be incredibly compelling to a kid. But there are also facts. The red on his map does not represent people, but land. And in fact, more Americans (three million, in fact) voted for Trump’s opponent. Your kid may also hear dour Democrats passionately suggest that they regret nothing as much as having to impeach the President of the United States. But the facts would suggest that many of those sorry politicians party have been searching out reasons to impeach the president for, literally, years.
Importantly, parents don’t need to go deep into political machinations to explain these points to children. They don’t need to talk about the ins and outs of the constitution or the electoral college. In fact, it’s best to stay away from these points unless you want to complicate an incredibly simple lesson: “These men and women are very emotional because they have big feelings just like everyone else. But that doesn’t mean that what they are saying is true.”
From that point, the conversation is about big feelings. You can talk about how feelings can be so big that you can’t see the rest of the world. Because sometimes feelings are like mountains. When you’re standing in front of it, the mountain is the only thing you can see. But the mountain isn’t the entire world.
Emotions around Impeachment has obscured the world for politicians on both sides. We would all be better off if we could get beyond our big feelings and look for the facts and the objective truth. And it’s there, somewhere, in all the evidence and documents that have been poured over. It’s in the documents and testimonies that have remained unheard, too. But in order to find it, we need to be quiet, ask the hard questions and not shy away from the scary answers.