On a boat, my son likes to shout “Starboard over port, I can hit you if I want!” He learned the idea during a sailing camp earlier this summer.
It’s a standard rule of sailboat racing that right-of-way goes to the boat with the wind crossing over the starboard (right) side of the boat. It governs most interactions during a race.
I had to explain to him that there’s a deeper, more fundamental rule. While the boat without right-of-way must adjust course, if they are unsuccessful or unable to get out of the way, the starboard boat must do everything within their power to avoid a collision.
So much of human interaction forgets the second half of the rule.
1. I’m right and you’re wrong. Therefore, I win. (at a verbal altercation, e.g.)
2. Everyone deserves to be safe from egregious harm.
Everything from a fistfight (brawl) to criminal sentencing (mandatory minimums) to political debates (opponents’ ridicule) to online comments (trolling) would do well to remember the second half. We humans are all-too-ready to take our rightness as an opportunity to pile on.