Collateral Damage


Photo: Sharon McCutcheon via Unsplash


“They’re collateral damage,” he said, and gestured toward the flash of news images across the screen. “It’s not anything personal against them.”

He shrugged as if his words explained all of what happened. Of what continues to take place.

“They never should’ve put themselves in this situation,” he added, perhaps because he’d perceived my incredulous stare as an invitation to explain further, or perhaps because someplace, somehow, he felt ashamed. That is, if he was capable of shame, which as the evening dragged on I found myself increasingly doubtful of.

I glanced at Brenda, whose dinner plate seems to have become her world. Her absconding only made me angrier, but the boulder in my throat allowed no sound. I shook my head.

“Well, they could’ve stayed where they were,” he retrieved a comb out of his pocket and proceeded to slick back his salt-and-pepper hair, and the outrageously incongruous act against the reality of utter misery, somehow released my breath.

“They are children!”ย I choked on the word, but the rest tumbled out behind it as if afraid to become lodged again. “They could not make the decision to stay. They had no choice where to be born. Or who they were born to, or whether or not to put themselves in any situations.”

He continued to groom himself with the comb and I fought the urge to grab his arms and toss away the thing, one of the many things, the children were denied.

“Their parents should’ve taken better care of them,” he added blandly.

I took in a deep breath. “Even if that was true, which it is not in the vast majority of the cases, how does that make it acceptable for others to deliberately traumatize these children further?”

He raised an eyebrow in disdain to signal that my upset was the overreaction. “If their parents stayed in their own countries,” he stated sedately, “instead of coming here, the children wouldn’t get locked up. It’s simple, really. If a person doesn’t want their kids to suffer, they should not do certain things.”

“So now we’re talking like the mafia? Threatening people with harm to their kids?”

“Calm down,” he drawled. “Now that people know their kids wouldn’t have it easy here, perhaps they’d think before they decide to make their kids into collateral damage. If they did as they were told and stayed wherever it was they belonged, none of this would have to happen.”

I inhaled and glared at his wife, the colleague whose silence at the face of cruelty made her increasingly less of a friend. Her eyes scanned the wall someplace not quite behind my head.

“So you approve of terrorizing children,” I stated, my fingers groping for my purse. Her birthday dinner or not. I was done. “This is exactly what mafia does.”

He actually cackled. “They’re the mafioso. It’s their fault if their kids are cold and wet and getting hurt. What did they expect, crumpets and tea?”




For Linda Hill’s SoCS writing challenge: co-


29 thoughts on “Collateral Damage

  1. Indeed, infuriating. Time to leave … after some collateral damage to his salt & pepper hair. How about a dollop of cream? Or the leavings in the gravy boat? And then maybe a plate. Not that I advocate violence. But fwith some people, actions speak louder than words

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The situation is so wrong, I know there are people who think like that ape at the table. Sadly the plight of refugees everywhere be they running from war ,poverty or gangs. The world and those in it are broken. A very thought provoking piece ๐Ÿ’œ

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Willow.
      Yes, there are people who think that way. There are people in position of power who speak that way openly, and many who support them who speak (and act) that way in their own settings. It is not a new phenomenon, though I’d have hoped the world to have evolved to better humanity. Apparently for some evolution is yet to take steps ahead.
      Much of the world IS broken, yes, though I hold hope, because I also see and meet so many people who are NOT broken. Who refuse to be defined by people like this one, and who refuse to stand idly by, and who use their voice, and won’t accept brutality and racism and apathy.
      If all of us who can, speak up for compassion, it’ll make change.
      Thank you for this comment! Na’ama


  3. This is a chilling read. The way the man tells you to calm down is just typical of this type of man. They talk their hate speech then treat those that disagree as the ones who have the problem.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So very true! This is the typical way for those who perpetrate — or who justify perpetration — to blame the victim or any who stand up to protect the victim. It made me angry at my colleague but it also made me worry for her. Because this kind of open disdain is very much that of those who beat their wives, with fists or words or forceful things, or all. …

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes. Is this what people are now calling ‘gaslighting’? Whatever the name for the behaviour it is really disempowering for women. I agree that is abusive behaviour. More and more people are talking about it. I think this can only be a good thing for it sends a message to women who are being treated this way that it’s not ok to be treated like that and that there are people who support them.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Angry is appropriate here, I think …
      As for how he’d feel … I think if anything happened to him (and I hope nothing will, because it should not happen to ANYONE), then he’d blame the same people he blames now … For he already sees himself as an entitled victim (oxymoron, I know, but some people are …), who others are ‘out to get’ or to ‘take from’ simply by them asking to have the same humane protections he’d been able to take for granted all his life. …

      Liked by 1 person

      • One’s experience is certainly their own, but all too often people seem to believe that they have no ownership (as adults–children are a whole other megillah) in it or that they ought to blame others for every mishap and perceived difficulty. Including when it is not at all about them, nor the fault of those they make up justification to blame …
        That said, what I do find is very much about each and every one of us, is how we respond to injustices toward others, especially toward the helpless and the needy and the less privileged. That becomes very much about who we are, and the world we allow or condone or promote. Those are places where weeping and anguish and rage are appropriate AND personal. For to watch from the sidelines and do nothing is to condone and become a part of.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think people can be apathetic and hypocritical no matter their party affiliation. Right or left, one can lost sight of the human cost and the realities of war, profiteering, helplessness, abuse, trauma, destruction, and the price we all pay when we do not take care to uphold kindness above brutality and care for others over the claim of ‘patriotism.’
        People are people first. We are none of us inherently better or more deserving than others. And so, we must speak up for those who are denied a voice. For otherwise, in my view we are forsaking ourselves. We are all connected.

        Liked by 1 person

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