Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Butter Battle Book Revisited or Why Vitriolic Rhetoric is a Bad Thing

The Butter Battle Book Revisited 
Why Vitriolic Rhetoric is a Bad Thing

Dr. Seuss was a wise man, so very wise he disguised his wisdom beneath layers of clever rhymes accompanied by whimsical pictures of creatures ill-defined but easy to align with.  The characters in The Butter Battle Book were given silly names like the Zooks and the Yooks and set up with an easy to follow plot involving one group eating their bread with the butter side down and one group eating their bread with the butter side up.  Such a trivial thing to argue over, but argue they did.  With each escalation of the disagreement, a member of the Zooks or Yooks would approach the wall dividing their properties carrying an ever more powerful and cleverly designed weapon, hoping to forcibly change the behavior of the other side. Threats were considered the best method.  As feelings grew more intense and tempers flared, the antes were upped.  The final frame of the book shows the leader of the Zooks and the leader of the Yooks each holding his final weapon of the most destructive nature over the wall with every intention of blowing everything and everyone to smithereens.  Their paws outstretched, they wait and wait for the other to flinch and we, the readers, are left with the unknowing uncertainty of a book left with no conclusion and the fear of total unalterable destruction
So silly to fight over bread buttering when it all tastes the same.  So silly to fight over politics when all we want is someone to lead with honesty and heart.  So silly to fight over health care reform when we know everyone deserves to be seen by a doctor when they are ill.  So silly to fight over gun control issues when it’s obvious too many bullets in one gun is a formula for disaster.

We fight over silly things every day, threatening each other with ever more powerful and cleverly designed weapons.  The weapons of choice for many come in the form of hate-filled words, vitriolic rhetoric or a huge line in the sand that never gets crossed to shake the hand on the other side.  

Rhetoric seemingly becomes the issue, with the issue itself getting lost in the soundbite abyss.  Who can outtalk, outwit or outsmart his opponent is the winner, but what do we lose along the way? 

We lose it all folks.  We stand at the wall having thrown every ounce of our being into our stance, unwilling to step back, unwilling to bend and we sadly all end up being the losers. 

There are many issues worth caring about.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t jump into the fray; we just need to put down the weapons, speak in softer tones and listen, really listen to what the other person is saying.  Maybe, just maybe a few more battles will end with opponents stepping away from the wall or agreeably crossing the line in the sand with a new outlook on an age old disagreement.

Pick up a copy of The Butter Battle Book today.  It’s a story for the times we live in.  I warn you, it looks like a book for children (and it is).  Dr. Seuss understood the serious subject matter would most likely be understood best by clear-eyed youngsters or possibly the child who still remains inside of you.


  1. I haven't heard this said better anywhere!

  2. Thank you. I wish it didn't have to be said at all.