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By Blaney Pridgen
Collateral damage: a noun used euphemistically to refer to inadvertent casualties and destruction in civilian areas in the course of military operations.
We have become more familiar with the term in Russia’s savage war against the Ukrainians. I say, “Russia” and not Putin. A nation ultimately bears the sins of the military adventures of its leaders. We as a nation have not been immune to this in times past even in this century. Innocent people, irreplaceable personal property, and costly infrastructures are always destroyed when powerful political entities go after each other for whatever reason. But this article isn’t about war in the usual sense.
I believe many of us are becoming a kind of collateral damage in the rank and rabid political divisions and cultural wars of our people. I could draw this out as a struggle between the two political parties. I don’t even want to say their names anymore. It is deeper than that. We are becoming a nation of selfish minorities, without having anything like a majority that cares about the common good of us all or even basic civility. People with their causes, concerns, issues, and idiosyncratic allegiances too often coalesce into mean-spirited, minorities that consider fellow citizens unlike them to be an enemy from within which must be defeated if not irradicated at any cost. Social media and indeed all media have become cesspools of lying, name calling, and violent rhetoric. Some of us out there feel like we have inadvertently wandered into a brawl among tosspots, rowdy boys, and dimwits, and there’s no place to hide from their mayhem. Some of us are beginning to experience emotional collateral damage from the countless minorities who will be damned if they don’t get their way.
I wonder how many of us there are. We have our own causes and issues too and even some firmly held beliefs, but we are not prone to anger, hatefulness, and sectarian strife. We are able to live with the ironies and ambiguities of the human condition while laughing at our own occasional foolishness, when we temporarily lose our bearings, but we choose not to become ugly and mean. There are just too many infuriated and indignant folks in our land, and they are beginning to get on the nerves of the rest of us.
Sometimes, I have a quasi-religious daydream drift through my imagination. The other day I imagined that invisible angels and demons inhabit our atmosphere. The angels and demons are always at war with each other while we humans suffer collateral damage from their warfare. We might think that we cause our own miseries, like real war, but in fact it’s the fighting among spiritual beings which bring us down and make life hard. Perhaps even an individual may have an angel and a demon fighting over possession of their soul causing all kinds of suffering in that individual. Of course, this was a fatuous imagination. The real angels and demons are we. We can become either angelic or demonic in our own order. The best order of things is when we seriously resist deeming our fellows to be demons in disguise. We have enough collateral damage to go around without creating it ourselves.