ar∙bi∙ter noun 1. A person selected to judge a dispute; umpire; 2. a person fully authorized or qualified to judge or decide
There are two sides to every disagreement. Not necessarily equivalent sides. Sometimes one side is in the right and the other is in the wrong.
If we are in the position of being the arbiter, we do harm if we dismiss the differences. All of us at some point are the arbiter—the authority needed to make a just ruling among disputing parties. So today’s post is about learning to be a good one.
Example 1: You are the parent of two children who are quarreling—at least at the point you arrive on the scene. Both kids are giving you their side.
Sister: “He took my cookie.”
Brother: “No, I didn’t.”
Sister: “He did. Look. He’s still eating it.”
Brother: “It was my cookie, not hers.”
Sister: “He took his already. I was going to eat it right after I finished my lunch.”
Brother: “It was just sitting there; everyone was done. One cookie left—I took it.”
Sister: “He knew it was mine.”
At some point you get tired of hearing the complaints. You stop listening to the details, and just want it to stop.
Parent: “No more cookies for either of you the rest of the day. You don’t deserve any if you’re going to fight over them.”
Parent sees the argument has been silenced and breathes a sigh of relief. Brother smirks at sister; he’s finishing his second cookie, and she gets none. Sister gets no cookie, because hers was stolen. And she has learned that she cannot trust the arbiter to deal with the injustice to make things right for her.
Example 2: Big guy walks down the school hallway, bumps into little guy, knocks him aside, gives a little extra nudge and causes him to drop his books. This is the third time in a week this exact thing has happened.
Little guy: “Hey! Cut it out, you jerk!
Big guy (stops): “You talking to me.”
Little guy (stands up after picking up mess—says nothing, just glares).
Big guy: “You need help with those things?” (knocks books again, blocks a punch from Little guy, then tries to punch him.)
Fight ensues. Other students surround them in a growing circle. A teacher steps out of a classroom. Tries to step between them to break up the fight.
Teacher: “Hey. Stop! No fighting allowed.”
Big guy: “He started it.”
Little guy: “He started it. He knocked my books to the floor—twice.”
Big guy: “He punched me.”
Little guy: “After he’s been shoving me around.”
Teacher: “I don’t want to hear it. No fighting allowed at school. Both of you—straight to the principal’s office.” (Walks them there.)
The teacher stopped the fight; he’s satisfied. Big guy and Little guy will both get reprimanded equally by the principal, because of the “no fighting” rule. So the Big guy has done additional damage to Little Guy without much effort or risk. The Little guy gets punished because he stood up to a bully after being victimized several times.
What would a just arbiter do in these circumstances?
· Pay attention.
· Hear both sides.
· Weigh the evidence.
· Make a wise judgment.
· Base consequences on what actually happened.
That may be more challenging than it looks, since judging whether a person is lying is a somewhat rare skill. But these are kids. You ought to be able to ascertain some truth, if you’re attentive and caring.
Some years ago I read about a family (too long ago for me to know how to cite the story) that held court. If a contention came up during the day, Mom could ask if this was something they wanted to take before the court of Dad. When Dad got home on these days—maybe after dinner—he would hold court around his desk. Each child in turn would present his side, including evidence, and possibly testimony from witnesses. Sometimes the true wrongdoer just gave up. But just about without fail, the Dad court could tell, after hearing both sides and paying attention to the evidence presented, what really happened. And then he could mete out consequences.
He did those five steps. And the result was that whoever was in the wrong (like the cookie stealer) would be held accountable. The one who got her cookie stolen would feel vindicated and supported. Right and wrong are put safely in their places. Both kids are better off for it.
At school it’s a little more challenging—yet another reason to homeschool. Still, a lot depends on what the teacher does, and follow that with what the principal does. If the principal assumes both are equally guilty, because of the no fighting rule, then she has been unfair to the victim of the bully, and she hasn’t done anything to reform the bully.
Wouldn’t it be better if the principal heard both sides—possibly separately—and heard from witnesses when possible? Maybe look at the record (chances are a bully, in a school with a just arbiter, would have a record). Then the bully might even learn what kind of behavior is unacceptable among civilized people—which ought to be an important part of education.
So, what about bigger, grown-up challenges?
Example 3: Israel exists in a country about the size of New Jersey, surrounded by enemies, subject to frequent, continual attacks. The “Palestinians” have been refugees since 1948, when they joined with the enemies of Israel to annihilate Israel—but they lost. They think they should be let back in to the country they tried to do away with. Generations pass with them failing to assimilate anywhere and continuing to blame Israel.
So you have one side that attacks innocent civilians, then sets up circumstances to make it nearly impossible to fight back without harming innocents, by using schools and hospitals and population centers as their military attack points. And the other side is totally defensive, and goes beyond what anyone should expect to avoid harming civilians.
Anyone who says the two sides are equivalent and ought to just learn to get along hasn’t taken the steps to be a just arbiter.
Who is the arbiter? In this case, it is individuals, like us, as well as the nation we belong to. The current leader of our country is not a just arbiter. That does damage to the small country in the Middle East that has heretofore been our ally. Without paying attention, hearing both sides, and weighing the evidence, there’s not much chance of making a wise judgment, let alone leading to a just consequence.
Example 4: A political candidate (Trump) makes personal, untrue attacks on all of his opponents in turn, as each one seems to become a threat. Another candidate (Cruz) consistently stays on the message of issues, comparing plans, persuading based on law and principle. Trump sees the comparison, using his own words along with video of himself saying things, as an attack. And he attacks back—without truth, without shame, without limits (admittedly, so far no murder that we’re aware of).
This past week there was an exchange that included the candidates’ wives. Trump’s current wife worked as a model. Back before they were married she did a nude photo shoot for GQ Magazine—the essential bikini parts are covered, but it’s obvious she’s unclothed, and it’s meant to be provocative. She made a living that way back then. It’s available out there on the internet, but I’m not linking to it. (I heard that the shoot took place on Trump’s jet, with his approval. Don’t know how to verify that.)
If it’s in print, it still exists. That’s what published means. Besides back issues available online, libraries out there keep back issues of practically everything. So it’s not surprising that the photo surfaced. It was used in an anti-Trump ad—a single-frame internet picture with words over it, saying something like, “Is this who you want as First Lady?” If Trump is so proud of his sexual exploits, and his wife’s body, then he should be expected to just say, “Yeah,” and shrug his shoulders. But he didn’t. He used it as a political media opportunity.
He accused Ted Cruz of running the ad. He didn’t—it was an anti-Trump PAC (political action committee). Then Trump said they did it because Cruz told them to. Cruz couldn’t—besides it not being a Cruz committee, law prevents any interaction between a candidate and a PAC.
Before blaming Cruz, Trump immediately retaliated with a threat of bad news he was ready to spill about Heidi Cruz. Shortly after that turned out to be a photo of Heidi, taken mid-sentence and mid-blink, side-by-side with a professional head shot of Melania. Trump not only implied that Heidi was ugly by comparison, he stated it bluntly.
And then, a day or two later, suddenly there are accusations that Ted Cruz has had, count ‘em, five affairs with women. In my opinion, the accusation is laughably false. No woman will verify. The story comes through the National Enquirer, purveyor of lies for profit, which happens to be owned by a Trump friend.
|Cruz's response to the attack; it looked at the time|
Trump was involved, which may prove true. But little
has been said by Cruz about it since. Found here.
Trump immediately says it wasn’t him, but that “Lyin’ Ted Cruz” will have to deal with it himself. Stories are starting to build the case against Trump on this, but it may be that someone who supports him or simply hates Cruz put out the accusation without Trump’s direct involvement—in which case Trump would see himself as innocent, even though he insists Cruz was responsible for the actions of an unrelated Super Pac. Hmmm.
And on radio Monday in Wisconsin, Trump reiterated his reason for the escalation of personal attacks to include family: “He started it.”
So it has been frustrating to hear multiple media sources, typically supposed conservatives, complain about all the bickering—and that it’s both sides’ fault. They should just get together and get along.
That, to me, sounds like an unjust arbiter. They have not paid attention. They have not noticed the overwhelming evidence that one side is a lying, manipulative narcissist whose campaign is based on, “Vote for me; I’ll make America great again, but don’t ask for details, just believe me that I will do it,” while belittling women, talk show hosts, all of his opponents, and anyone who disagrees with him. And the other is an expert on the issues related to our constitutionally protected freedoms and how returning to the Constitution will bring us a return to the freedom and prosperity we expect in America—a promise given while being scrupulously against personal attacks on his opponents—up until the attack on his wife.
If you’re a Republican voter, you’re an arbiter in this case. You need to pay attention, hear both sides, weigh the evidence, and make a wise judgment. If you do that, you will definitely know better than to send a crude, vulgar, self-obsessed bully to the White House. You might instead consider sending a very smart, very accomplished and principled man there.
If you’re in a position to judge—and you are, in many circumstances in your life—then be a just arbiter.