When the tear-jerking story had finished, my kindergarten teacher came over to give me a hug. The events I had relayed clearly required consolation.
It was show-and-tell time, and it being the beginning of the school year, we were asked to share something about ourselves other people might not know. I told the story of Pepper.
Pepper was my beloved dog who played with me in the yard all the time. I was his favorite — he didn’t like my older sister at all because she was mean to him. Pepper and I were best friends.
One day when I was throwing a rubber ball to Pepper, it went into the street. My large, black dog gave quick chase and never saw the car that hit him. Pepper died instantly, my mother telling me as she wiped away tears that it would be OK and Pepper now was in a better place.
I remember being inconsolable, seeing the silver sedan as it hit my best friend over and over in my daydreams. Over and over I would ask my parents if we could get another dog to replace him, with the answer always being no.
Enter the teacher with outstretched arms. Such a sad story, she said, and she was so sorry it had happened.
Except it hadn’t. Not a single word of it. My dog didn’t dash into the street to meet tragic doom. As Mom would point out that afternoon when I told her about my school day, we never had a dog. Or cat, hamster, goldfish or any other living thing except our nuclear family.
Pepper wasn’t the victim of a car, but of a young boy’s vivid imagination.
May he rest in peace.
It’s easy, especially as a youngster, to convince ourselves that things are real when they are not. Baby dolls talked, boys were soldiers at war and football stars, and we played with imaginary friends.
As an adult, believing things disconnected from the reality is equally possible. A good example popped into my email box the other day.
A former managing editor of The Facts was seeking a copy of an editorial he had written two decades earlier to use as the basis for one he planned to craft at his current paper. The comparisons he would make were perfectly reasonable, but contradictory to everything I had heard about The Facts of 1998.
Repeatedly our critics have pointed out how our attacks on President Donald Trump were unprecedented. Back when Bill Clinton was in office, we were told, we attacked his critics and stood firmly behind him. By that barometer, we should do the same with the current president whose conduct is far less egregious.
A fair argument, if the foundation of the claim proved to be remotely true. The email last week prompted me to see if it was.
Not even a little bit.
“The presidency cannot survive this latest assault. Bill Clinton can no longer lead our country. He must resign immediately,” The Facts editorial board wrote in September 1998.
It continues, in part: “Clinton acted without values, without regard for the presidency, the country or his family. … Clinton’s behavior during and after renders him unfit to be president of the greatest nation in the world. The United States needs a leader, a statesman, but instead we have Clinton confessing his sins like some depraved TV evangelist.”
After Clinton’s acquittal by the U.S. Senate on impeachment charges, The Facts concluded, “In hindsight, the entire spectacle has created an atmosphere of mistrust and skepticism about truth, justice and the American way and about our leaders on both sides of the aisle.”
The only difference between this newspaper’s handling of the two presidencies is that we have not called for Trump’s resignation, impeachment or other punitive action. Voters will be the ultimate arbiters on Trump’s actions, veracity and character, and they’ll get their chance next year.
But as for the narrative The Facts backed a liberal caught up in a sex scandal two decades ago, the truth ran that lying dog over.