By Jim “Pappy” Moore
How long has it been since you shouted those words to another person? Some couples carry that practice into adulthood, but most of us used “you started it” exclusively in childhood. We directed that comment to a brother, a sister, a cousin or friend.
It was simple and direct. We did not equivocate. We did not utilize subtlety. We just blurted out “you started it!” or, “he started it!” or,” they started it!” Those were the only words necessary for siblings to use as they defended their actions to parents or other supervisory adults.
Adult life would be much more direct if we used the same approach to confrontation often displayed by children. We understood back then that the person provoking the incident is the party who has the most responsibility. We knew it was baiting, even before we knew what baiting meant. We knew that if we could get the arbiter – whether parent, scout master, teacher, or coach – to see the other person as the provocateur, we had a chance of escaping blame.
Most of the time, however, our adult overlords would not let the accuser off the hook so easily. “Well, what did YOU do?!” the adult would ask us. Soon, we would be explaining ourselves for whatever provocation we might have engaged in.
Sometimes on the television judge shows, we are reminded of those childhood disputes. The litigants often behave as unruly children in court. Usually, it was even more childish behavior which led to the court case to begin with. The TV judges are pretty good at ferreting out the facts of the underlying conflict.
Judge Judy has a nose for finding the person who “started it” by their misconduct. Often, it is the person who filed the case who really committed the most objectionable conduct. While Judge Judy and other television judges are bound somewhat by law, they are essentially arbiters agreed upon by the parties to settle their dispute. In that sense, those judges can often more directly seek justice than real judges in real courtrooms. Real judges are bound more by law than by a quest for true justice.
More often than not, the person who started it – whether it is a breach of the peace, the destruction of property, or the negligent operation of a vehicle – IS the party at fault. It is appropriate that such person be held accountable.
While a legal case in small claims court is a grown-up version of our dispute resolutions as children, we learn the dynamics of conflict resolution in childhood. The younger children learn to rely upon their status as a younger person. Likewise, the smaller person sometimes relies upon that. Arbiters tend to look to the older, more mature, more grown-up person as having a greater responsibility than the younger, smaller, less mature person.
Sometimes adults need more of “you started it” and less of quiet, smoldering anger that remains unresolved. Kids know how to get to the point in a hurry, then get back to playing.
Copyright 2016, Jim “Pappy” Moore. All rights reserved.