Monday, March 10, 2014

Collateral damage 4

We don't like to think of ourselves as collateral damage. In the U.S. people like to believe they are in control of their lives and what happens to them. You can go along for years believing this, even decades if you're lucky.

But then something happens. A drunk driver plows into another person's car in a terrible accident and and they die. The planes hit the Twin Towers or the snipers randomly shoot folks, or the hurricane wreaks havoc or the crazy guy walks into the elementary school or the movie theater or the mall.

And we think: Those people were just going about their everyday lives, and look what happened to them. That could have been me.

Those people were collateral damage. They weren't doing anything wrong, they weren't being stupid and putting themselves in harm's way. And stuff happened to them anyway.

We hate this. We want to think we have control of situations, that we are leaders, players, influencing what happens, able to prevent bad outcomes. And often this works. But not always. There are times when we are just supporting cast in a drama where the lead actors are going to do what they're going to do, and nothing we can do will prevent bad things from happening.

Because we inherently think we are in control, it's somewhat shameful to realize there are times when we're collateral damage. What did we miss? There must have been a sign we missed. What should we have done that would have prevented this from happening? We have a nagging feeling that we should have pitched in to help, but didn't. Or that if we did help, we didn't do enough. Or that we weren't smart enough to find a solution, persuasive enough to change someone's mind, courageous enough to confront perpetrators. There's also a sense of shame in believing we were played for a fool, or that we weren't paying attention to what was going on.

There are a lot of haunting "if onlys" that go along with being collateral damage.

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