When I was in 5th grade, my neighbor Robert and I hung out a lot. It was a quiet neighborhood street, and we had the run of it. I’m not sure if it’s a memory or a reality, but the winter’s were harsh. The snow would pile up on our street and seemingly stay through March.
After one particularly big storm, we started hanging out at the top of this massive snow pile. It was pushed to the side of the street and offered a great vantage point of cars driving by. It didn’t take long for us to not just throw snowballs at each other but also at passing cars.
A lot of the time we missed, but one time I totally hit the front windshield of a neighbor. He stopped, yelled something, then got back in his car and drove off.
A few minutes later, my dad stepped out of the house and yelled for me to come inside.
“Were you throwing snowballs at cars?”
“Robert was throwing them too.”
“I didn’t ask that. Were you throwing snowballs at cars?”
“But what about Robert? He was throwing them too.”
“I don’t care about Robert. I care about you. Answer me. Were you throwing snowballs at cars?”
“Yes,” I mumbled.
“Did you know that getting hit by a snowball while you are driving can be very startling. And if you are startled you might get in an accident, especially if the roads are icy. The snowball, especially if it is icy can also crack a windshield.”
“No buts. I want you to walk down to the Jones’ house and apologize.”
“No. You could’ve hurt them or damaged their car. You need to take responsibility for what you did.”
“But Robert threw snow balls too.”
“I don’t care. Get moving.”
I put my coat back on, very slowly, and then very slowly put my mittens and hat on. Stepping into the coming darkness, I started walking with my father watching from the window.
Out on the street, I ran into Robert, and we both walked slowly up to the Jones’ house to apologize.
The Jones opened their door and listened intently as we mumbled our apologies.
After we finished we stood there waiting to be dismissed.
Instead, Mrs. Jones said, “Thank you boys. It must’ve been hard to do that. And I’m sure it was cold walking up here. How would you like some cookies and hot chocolate?”
The point of this story isn’t that one shouldn’t throw snow balls at passing cars, though that is a lesson I learned, but that trying to excuse your behavior by relying on the defense of, “but what about….” Is not really a defense.
And it seems to be a defense I see employed all the time. In fact, in the latest dust-up over President Trump’s comments to the President of Ukraine, a FB friend stated (in all caps and misspellings), “LOOK AT KILLERY THE WITCH AND HER MOFFIA STYLE FAMILY” as a way of deflecting from the criticism of Trump.
In this heightened tension and partisanship, don’t get sucked into “whataboutism.” That’s not what we are talking about. There may indeed be a lot of impropriety in regards to the Clinton’s, but it isn’t, “They got away with it, so our guy should too.” By that argument, Trump doesn’t have the “moral” temperament to be President because they impeached Clinton for less. Yet, that is not the question. The question is did Donald Trump ask a leader of a foreign country to investigate a political rival? And if so, is that a dereliction of duty as President?
Seems a pretty straight forward question.