May 29, 2024

COLUMN: Hoping someone has the magic words and way

Make your own case

When I was a kid there was an independent convenient store in town. When you reached the age of 13 you starting hearing the stories of how there were adult magazines for sale there and, common for that age, you always wondered what it really was all about. It was about the same time when the 7-Eleven chain of convenient stores decided to stop selling similar publications. I, too, grew up in a 7-Eleven town.

I was too buying junk food and playing video games on the way home from school to wonder about magazines.

With what happened last week in a New York City courtroom, that subject wasn’t hiding behind solid black plastic wrap or placed high and behind the cash register. It was out in the open for all, including today’s 13 year olds, to see.

During former President Donald Trump’s financial fraud case in New York City, adult movie actress Stormy Daniels took the stand. She was the person allegedly paid $130,000 by Trump after the two had a relationship in 2006 to prevent her from going public and ruining his 2016 presidential campaign. (Daniels thought it would ruin her career if Trump lost in 2016 and the story got out.) Trump denied the affair ever happened. Trump’s been accused of hiding the payment under “legal fees” that were orchestrated by others who knew. That’s where the fraud claim shows up.

I thought Daniels’ testimony was bogged down too much by what happened between the two rather than determining if she knew she was being paid to keep quiet. She didn’t stay quiet during Trump’s time in office.

What do today’s parents of young adolescents tell their children if they were asked about that portion of the trial? In the mid 1980s, there were no handheld portable computers, that acted like phones, where one could answer their own questions of Daniels so called work. When I was 13 I watched TV news. I remember the early years of HIV and AIDS. (I have a strong, disturbing AIDS prevention commercial from Australia from the mid 1980s recorded on VHS.) There are effective, appropriate ways to learn sensitive or controversial things. I remember the space shuttle disaster. I remember bad or tough things that happened.

What happened last week was bad, tough, but more embarrassing than anything else. How do parents teach that?

I don’t know what today’s 13 year olds do at home in the evenings. Both of my children are far beyond that age. What do you tell a kid at that age who wants to know what that part of the Trump trial all means? I’ll give today’s kids some credit and they have a fundamental idea of what happened, maybe because of those handheld portable computers that sometimes act like phones. No black plastic wrap needed to remove.

Can a parent explain all of that where the kid better understands but the parent knows another piece of the kid’s innocence is gone, but not troubled by it?

Unfortunately, it’s not just Trump that has been in this situation. Sure, of course, Trump will get the attention because he had been president. Democrat candidate for president in 2008 John Edwards had a child with a staff member while his unknowing wife was fighting cancer. What Trump and Daniels allegedly did is not new. I’m 99.9% sure they won’t be the last.

That category of temptation has no boundaries; age, gender, socio-economic status, political interest, occupation. The list goes on. Some are ignorant to think it’s only a problem with clergy or school staff. It’s a people problem. That should also be part of the explanation from parent to child.

7-Eleven decided to stop selling because of pressure from strong conservative organizations including Jerry Falwell who was behind the Moral Majority movement at the time to influence politics and culture. The corporate owner of 7-Eleven at the time feared the sale of magazines had a link to crime. Some organizations fight those magazines and category of work. Those magazines, and Daniels’ category of work, is protected by the First Amendment.

I’m just hoping there is a parent out there who will tell their 13 year olds the magic words in the magic way so we don’t have to hear near as much about it again in the future.

John Van Nostrand


An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.