The president of the United States of America has been impeached and is on trial in the Senate. He may or may not have done something sketchy and it may or may not be serious enough for him to be removed from office. It’s complicated and politically charged and culturally divisive. It’s a minefield to talk about among peers.

And talking about it with my children? How do I navigate that?

If only I had some personal experience to draw from. But it’s not like something like this happened when I was young.

Well, except for that one time when I was in high school and the president of the United States of America was impeached and on trial in the Senate.

OK, sure, it happened in my formative years, too. But it’s not like I have a roadmap on how to parent through this. When Bill Clinton was impeached, I don’t think my mother said word one about the whole affair. #seewhatididthere

In her defense, what could she say? For one, we hadn’t even had “the talk” yet – I’m certain she didn’t want to launch into that topic in the context of a discussion about United States government. But also, it’s not like she had any personal experience with such a huge and dramatic political scandal in her lifetime.

Except for that one time when she was in high school and the president of the United States of America resigned to avoid being impeached and put on trial by the Senate for the whole Watergate thing.

Three generations of Americans whose highest government official were publicly raked over the coals for, at best, terrible behavior, and at worst, high crimes against the country. No wonder we live in a society so distrustful of its leaders.

As counterintuitive as it seems, what we need to reestablish trust is the very thing that has caused its deterioration – we need to go through this process of holding our leaders accountable.

But we need to really go through it. No political showmanship. No dog and pony show – or donkey and elephant show. If we want to regain the legitimacy of the office of the president and restore faith in our political system, we need to truly exercise the process put in place by the framers of our Constitution and exorcise those spirits who don’t measure up.

If we hold the president today accountable for his actions, that sends a message – or fires a warning shot – to would-be presidents of the future. And then maybe everyone will shape up just a little. Maybe my children and their peers will have some decent options and they won’t elect egocentric calamities.

Maybe they’ll identify selfless and capable individuals and promote them to the highest positions of leadership. Maybe those who are elected will live up to the office they hold and sacrifice their own self-interest for the good of those they serve.

Or maybe we’ll do nothing and in 20 years or so years my daughter will be wringing her hands, stressing over how to talk to her daughter about what it means to have the president of the United States of America impeached and on trial in the Senate.

And I’ll scoot away in my flying car, grateful I’m not in her shoes and hopeful that she’ll do a better job of it than I did.

Jade Stellmon set sail for a three-hour tour on the Palouse in 2001. She is now happily marooned in Moscow with her spouse and five children.

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