“Collateral damage,” usually a military term – as when “pinpoint” drone strikes wipe out wedding parties instead of militants – applies to politics and economics as well.

          The two-thirds of the United States’ 600,000 COVID-19 deaths that could have been avoided with masking, lockdowns and leadership were collateral damage in the ex-president’s campaign to politicize a health crisis in order to further divide the country and rally ignorant, anti-science adherents to his banner.

          That his own supporters, following his lies, became the most susceptible to disease and death  was irrelevant. They were expendable pawns to his cause. And, the carry-over to this disinformation is now evident with the vast majority of COVID hospitalizations involving people who refused to be vaccinated.

          “We are not a herd,” Núria Astorch wrote in Barcelona’s El Punt Avui in May, to protest the dehumanizing “herd immunity” notion proposed by some politicians including our ex-president. She actually objected to the random culling of the herd.

          Our country has gone kill crazy, exacerbated by the ready availability of guns. Victims of mass shootings at work, at play, shopping or at school are collateral damage – unimportant and expendable – to firearms fanatics who consider the Second Amendment holy writ.

          A six-year-old in California or a two-year-old in Chicago gunned down in fits of road rage do not matter. The “thoughts and prayers” of those who refuse to consider any sensible gun restrictions are just hot air.

          We could say that the open carry epidemic sweeping red states is taking them back to the Wild West. Except, most of the rip-roaring cattle towns and mining boomtowns had laws where folks would check their guns upon entering town. That Gunfight Near the OK Corral was precipitated by just such a violation.

          Collateral damage means it happens to someone else, someone who is not important enough to be considered in the formal equation – someone so unimportant that they barely rate a mention.

          American business and industry has embraced this philosophy for years. Sweatshops and child labor (now out of sight overseas), unsafe working conditions and consequences such as black lung for miners and cancers for chemical-spreading farmers. Poisoning the land, air and water. Anything they can get away with for as long as it is allowed.

          Not everyone is so overt as the managers of the Iowa meat-packing plant which demanded worker attendance during the height of the pandemic, and then “organized a cash-buy-in, winner-take-all, betting pool for supervisors and managers to wager how many plant employees would test positive,” according to Common Dreams’ Kenny Stancil, who added that these same managers began avoiding the work floor at this time to protect themselves.

          But, continuing to sell tainted food products after the danger has been identified creates a Russian roulette system of who is expendable today. Could be any of us.

          The pharma-driven opioid epidemic disregarded deaths and family destructions in the name of profits. Recent fines and settlements are a pittance of the money they raked in.

          The deadly February deep freeze in Texas was created by a Republican government coordinating with electric companies to maximize the latter’s profits. The system’s fragility was designed in advance.

          Mark Sumner of the Daily Kos explains:

          “The truth was that as Texas began to literally die from the prolonged outage, the ERCOT system was working exactly as designed. What Texas Republicans created was a tribute to the worst features of the market system. Under ERCOT, providers are rewarded for providing just enough energy to get through day to day, because what the system really rewards is shortages. In a single day of the outage, several electrical providers in Texas were able to earn more profit than they did during the entire remainder of the year, while providing less electricity. Not a bad deal … for the providers. Meanwhile, consumers who had been without power for days, many of whom were watching burst pipes flood their damaged homes, were presented with enormous bills that were dozens of times more than normal.”

          The cost in human suffering was just collateral damage to the bottom line.

          Sumner points out, too, that the “official death toll” of 151 expendables includes only cold weather deaths and not those who lost their lives when power outages stopped life-preserving machines and treatments

          During the catastrophe, according to Bloomberg News, Roland Burns, chief financial officer of Jerry Jones’ Comstock Resources, Inc., crowed, “This week is like hitting the jackpot with some of these incredible prices. Frankly, we were able to sell at super premium prices for a material amount of production.“

          Other gas companies recorded similar windfalls at the expense of expendable customers.

          In June, Dallas’ WFAA TV reported “Ever since the power grid failure caused a statewide crisis in February, power companies have tried blocking the release of information that could shed light on what went wrong.” 

          Well, to the power companies, nothing went wrong. What happened to others was just collateral damage for their obscene profits.

          Oh, yeah, Texas could face similar emergencies this summer, and, in fact, some folks with super-smart thermostats have seen their electric companies raise their settings automatically.

          And combining politics and economics, The Scotsman reported in June that small businesses in the United Kingdom might prove to be the “sacrificial lambs” to the country’s Brexit bungle.

          Sacrificial lambs. Collateral damage. Same sorry principle. Someone in power has declared that somebody who is not is not worthy of being treated as a human being. Expendable. And, it could be any of us on any given day.

            (Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party. Longer versions of his columns can be found at scdpok.us or facebook.com/SCDPOK/.)

Collateral damage includes everyone

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