I slipped into the bathroom, closed the door and turned on the water. I waited a minute, turned the water off and then walked out to go to school. “Did you brush your teeth?”, she asked. “Yes ma’am”, I replied before heading to school.
That afternoon I unexpectedly found myself under interrogation at my Dad’s office. “Did you brush your teeth this morning?” Not yet sensing what a hole I was already in, I told him I did brush my teeth. “Then why was your toothbrush dry?” came my Mother’s follow up question.
Thus began the longest afternoon of my life. My Dad told me to go home and to think about the whipping I was going to get that night. I considered running away. I thought about hiding somewhere overnight. These were not very viable options, as I was just eight years old.
This was the last whipping I ever got. I learned a lot that day, lessons still on my mind 55 years later. First, I brush my teeth every day. That is part of the reason I have never had a cavity in my life.
Second, I don’t lie to my Mother. Ever. There might have been some half-truths in my teenage years, but never a lie. I am not about to start now, as I am much too old to have another whipping.
The third lesson took a bit longer to fully understand, but was probably the most important. My integrity was at stake when I did not tell the truth. It not only reflected poorly on me personally, but in my Dad’s eyes it reflected on him and his family. I was expected to work hard, do my best and respect my family, my God and my country. Anything else was unacceptable.
Today I listened as my President stood on a platform with Russia’s President Putin and state that he believed that Russia was not involved in the election meddling, despite the proof presented by numerous United States intelligence agencies. The reason for Trump’s denial was that Putin told him so. I wonder if anyone ever checks Putin’s toothbrush to see if it is wet.
I am not wading into the political debates that have paralyzed our country. I am not Democrat or Republican. I am an Independent. I am not right wing or left wing, but rather I am a Moderate, the dirtiest word in American politics today.
I have benefited greatly by some of President Trump’s actions. His tax reform plan has helped me more than it should have. His reduction of business regulations has helped my company and the entire economy. He has stood firm on the Second Amendment which I support, though I see nothing wrong with discussions on background checks.
I will admit that Trump’s tweets drive me crazy, though only because I think they cause self-inflicted wounds. The biggest obstacle to Trump’s being a successful President is his Twitter account and his undisciplined approach to saying what he thinks. About anything. However, I would not have much of the integrity that my Dad and Mother worked so hard to instill in me, nor would I have much worth as a newspaper owner if I ignored the comments that President Trump made in Helsinki, Finland today.
The discipline I got in the third grade was not the most painful part of that memory. The worst part was having to go and apologize to my Mother. We both were sobbing and I promised to never let her down again. I hope I have kept that promise.
President Trump will not get a whipping, though he very well may deserve one. I expect he will not issue an apology. Make no mistake, however, that Trump has indeed crossed a line today in criticizing his own country on foreign soil while standing by Russia’s leader.
President Trump tweeted just before the summit “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!” It was followed by possibly the most embarrassing press conference ever given by an American President.
Don’t shoot this messenger. I want Trump to succeed and America to prosper, but I want us to be mindful of our enemies and supportive of our allies, not the other way around.
This was a sad day. Sad for the 63 million citizens that voted for Trump and the many that still hope that his presidency can be salvaged at some level. My Dad taught me that without integrity you are nothing. The President needs to learn this lesson before he crosses another line.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org