Robert Kirby: U.S.-Iran standoff is like a high school brawl and bystanders may end up with black eyes — or worse

It’s all fun and honor until someone gets an eye poked out

Watching the world news lately is akin to watching two high school boys square off. The exact reason for the fight isn’t entirely clear even to them. They only know it’s time to get all medieval on someone.

Why? Because of honor, also known as ego. Nothing winds up some people quite like bringing honor into a challenge.

With but a few changes in wording and location, the sparring between Iran and the U.S. goes something like this:

Scene: High school parking lot. Participants: Guy No. 1 and Guy No. 2. Audience: Assorted friends, gawkers and hecklers.

No. 1 • “You called my girlfriend a pig!”

No. 2 • “No, I asked if that was a ‘wig.’ Besides, you said you keyed my car.

No. 1 • “I said, I ‘need’ your car.”

The preliminaries continue until one of them throws the first punch. It gets bloody, sides are chosen, and the friction lasts for at least the rest of the school year.

Here’s the thing: The actual fight is almost always due to encouragement from the gathered throngs. They’re excited to watch someone get a butt-kicking, giddy in the knowledge that it won’t be them.

But there’s a big difference in high school scraps and the current international one. One of the guys (maybe both) has bombs that can kill not only the entire crowd but also the rest of the school and most of the city.

There has to be a better way of resolving these matters than a war that ends up killing a bunch of innocent bystanders — which, at this point in my life, includes those I love the most.

I won’t bore you with suggested solutions to the rising conflict. I don’t have any. Even if I did, almost no one would go for them.

What I know for sure is that it’s up to “we the people” to slow things down. We’re the ones who will catch hell if things get nasty. And if the high commands of both countries and their respective supporters get toasted, well, the whole damn dispute was their fault in the first place.

The problem is that they won’t be the ones getting killed. They’ll be deep underground where it’s safe. You, me, all our friends and kids will be the ones caught in the crossfire — especially the soldiers they send over to fight.

It’s up to the noncombatants of both sides to bring this escalation to a halt. If you had a couple of Iranian families move into your neighborhood, wouldn’t you try to get along?

Without governments (and religion), we’re just people trying to get through the day. You’d loan them your lawn mower; they’d help push your car out of a ditch. Our kids would play together. Maybe even take one another to the prom. We would have neighborhood barbecues and watch movies.

So, let’s all take a deep breath. It’s time for one side to let the other side have the last laugh. And please do it before those I love most get really hurt.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.