When my kids were little we had a standard rule for sibling conflicts. It was all about taking responsibility for your own actions and reactions. Simply put, no one was allowed to employ the Butt Defense.
Granted, I didn’t call it the Butt Defense back in the day. That name materialized on the spot in that last sentence and I left it because, well, it’s just so fitting. The Butt Defense never advanced a child’s cause in this house and it usually came back to bite ‘em on their own behinds.
My kids didn’t have to be taught to use the Butt Defense. It came naturally out of their own desire to defend themselves and promote their own interests.
“Yes’m, I did hit/slap/pinch him, but he hit/slapped/pinched me first.”
“Yes’m, I did call her a _______________but she called me a ______________.”
In my role as sitting judge, I would overrule the Butt Defense faster than quick. Anyone using it was promptly reminded that I wasn’t talking about what his or her sibling had said or done. I wanted the child I was addressing to understand what the correct response should have been to the situation and what they could do differently in the future. Banning the Butt Defense helped us all move forward.
If only we could ban the Butt Defense in our national conversation. Sadly, it’s the fallback to every political discussion I witness and it keeps us mired in the mess we are all convinced the other folks started. For every person worried about the dangerous lack of civility in our politics and sincerely asking what we can do about it, I have an idea.
We can start by refusing to respond with the infamous Butt Defense. If we would call a hateful spade or atrocious action what it is without giving that person or voice any “cover” by employing the Butt Defense, we would begin ostracizing the extreme elements on all sides and diminishing their impact. Anything less will keep coming back to bite us all in the backsides.