Collateral Damage

Some of my Facebook friends may recognize the name Audrey Lockwood. Audrey, a self-proclaimed “male bashing lesbian avenger” and radical feminist, frequently responds to my posts with calls for the destruction of the patriarchy, the absolute rule of women, and the necessity for every woman to know how to efficiently and effectively place a man in a foolproof choke hold. But that’s not all there is to Audrey.

My good friend Audrey Lockwood (she gave me permission to share her photo)

My good friend Audrey Lockwood (she gave me permission to share her photo)

Audrey is a truly gifted poet, a tireless champion to young lesbians and a dedicated patron of the visual arts. She has an unerring eye for beauty—natural and created. She is sentimental about holidays and often wears outfits appropriate to the occasion. Aside from her rants, she posts pictures of octopuses, suffragettes, butterflies, mermaids, exotic birds, female pirates, turtles, and the 18th Century.

Audrey and her spouse, Kittredge Cherry, have been together for 41 years; they met Labor Day weekend freshman year. And that, as they say, was that. They were legally married in 2016. Kitt is an ordained priest and the accomplished author of several books, including Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ and More as well as the editor of the blog, Jesus in Love, which has just moved to qspirit.net.

Audrey is a great soul. She is fearless and curious. An ardent Hillary Clinton supporter, Audrey, nonetheless, took it upon herself to attend a Donald Trump rally. She was “interested,” she told me, “to find out what they were all about.” She talked with several Trump supporters and, then, toward the end of the event, confided in them that she was voting for Hillary. She told me she was a little bit nervous to tell them but that they were perfectly nice when she did. I’m not sure that Audrey entirely understands that anyone with half a brain would be nice to her and, at the very least, respect the hell out of her.

I neglected to mention another of Audrey’s accomplishments: Audrey speaks Japanese. In Japan the government awards persons, who’ve made exceptional contributions to the country with the title of “Treasure.” If we had that tradition here, I would happily nominate Audrey.

I love Audrey and I am privileged to call her my friend. She is the embodiment of Emile Zola’s declaration, “I came to live out loud.” She is Thoreau’s “different drummer” who “marches faithfully” to the music perhaps she, alone, hears. She, as Walt Whitman said of himself, “contains multitudes.” (I am aware that Audrey would prefer it if I quoted women when describing her. I’m open for suggestions.)

When, in the final scenes of the Wizard of Oz, the Wizard tells Dorothy and her friends that he is off to confer, confer and hobnob (drink socially) with the other wizards, I sometimes imagine that Audrey’s one of those wizards, awaiting to toast his return as he would, no doubt, do for her!

The foregoing paragraphs are context and color. It’s important to have a rich picture of Audrey to fully appreciate the next two paragraphs.

During the run-up to the Iraq war, Audrey attended a business conference in Boston; the keynote speaker was ubiquitous CNN commentator, advisor to presidents, silver-haired sage, eminence gris, David Gergen. Gergen advised the audience that the Iraq war was inevitable. A done deal!

After he left the stage, Audrey cornered Gergen and demanded to know what would happen to the women and children of Iraq. “I was pretty rough on him,” she recalls (oh to have been a fly on that wall). I have a vivid mental picture of Gergen claustrophobic, perspiring and squirming as Audrey insisted “You must answer me!” Gergen replied that they (the women and children) would be “collateral damage!”

 

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There’s a scene in the movie Titanic, where the Captain, the ship’s builder, the managing director of the shipping company, and the First Officer confront the inevitability of the ship’s sinking.

The Captain asks the First Officer, “How many aboard, Mister Murdoch?”

“Two thousand two hundred souls,” the First Officer answers.

Souls!

In a little more than 100 years we’ve gone from calling the fatalities from tragedies “souls” to calling them “collateral damage.” Along the way we paused for a moment at “citizens” then moved onto “consumers” and now we dare to call human beings “collateral damage.”

The term “collateral damage” doesn’t just apply to fatalities in war, it refers to workers whose factory jobs have been shipped abroad to increase the profit margin for stockholders. It refers to the Native Americans at Standing Rock, whose protests interrupt profits for investors in the pipeline. It refers to the people of Flint Michigan, whose water, after more than a year, remains unsafe to drink because stupid greedy bureaucrats were trying to cut corners (It makes good business sense, shaves dollars of the budget.” They say.) It refers to hungry children, people with special needs, seniors, and the disabled who are the collateral damage of an economic philosophy (just words on paper) that justifies the ruthless gutting of government programs that provide a meager safety net to the most vulnerable among us. Souls count for nothing in this philosophy. Those who are not profitably productive have no inherent worth. They are, as they say in the UK, “redundant,” cast off  by those who worship a  computer generated algorithm  that reduce souls to citizens to consumers to collateral damage in order to create “the few” billionaires at the expense of reducing “the many” souls to collateral damage.

From everything I can tell, the president-elect’s nominees for cabinet posts all pledge obeisance to this cult of the bottom line.  In 1517 Martin Luther condemned catholic clergy for selling indulgences; today the guardians of the public trust sell access and influence to the highest bidder and are equally contemptible.

It is blasphemy– a calculated desecration of those who, not too long ago, were thought to be souls, “Temples of the Holy Spirit!”

The United States is a Sacred, if imperfect, Trust passed down by generations, preserved by blood, sacrifice, vigilance and devotion to the priceless gift that has been bequeathed to us. The government of the United States was never conceived of as a business and to operate it as such is a short-sighted, criminally greedy, gravely immoral and, perhaps, even treasonous, betrayal of what the visionary Founders of this republic had in mind.

FDR said, “We must especially, beware of that small group of selfish men who would clip the wings of the American eagle in order to feather their own nests.”

Sale on clippers in aisle three!

After the election, I needed something wonderful to console and ground me and to ease the depression, I like so many others, was experiencing. I turned for comfort to my favorite novel of all time, T. H. White’s masterpiece, “The Once and Future King”. And it was, as it has been before, the perfect choice. This must be the fourth or fifth time I read it.

This passage seems particularly fitting to the times and the subject of this blog:

onceandfutureking“What is all this chivalry anyway?” Merlyn asked. “It simply means being rich enough to have a castle and a suit of armor, and then, when you have them, you make the Saxon people do what you like. The only risk you run is of getting a few bruises if you happen to come across another knight. . . . Pulling swords out of stones is not legal proof of paternity, I admit, but the kings of the Old Ones are not fighting you about that. They have rebelled, although you are their feudal sovereign because the throne is insecure. England’s difficulty, we used to say, is Ireland’s opportunity. This is their chance to pay off racial scores, and to have some blood-letting for spot as sport, and to make a bit of money in ransoms. Their turbulence does not cost them anything themselves because they are dressed in armor—and you seem to enjoy it, too. But look at the country. Look at the barns burnt, and dead men’s legs sticking out of ponds, and horses with swelled bellies by the roadside, and mills falling down, and money buried, and nobody daring to walk abroad with gold or ornaments on their clothes. That is chivalry nowadays. . . And then you talk about a battle being fun.”

“I was thinking of myself,” Arthur said.

“I know,” said Merlyn.

“I ought to have thought of the people who had no armor,” Arthur said.

“Quite,” said Merlyn.

 

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2 thoughts on “Collateral Damage

  1. Thank you Jim. This post both upset and opened my heart. I hope thousands of people read it. We need more Audrey’s to have the courage to speak up, ask the questions, and rally the souls to protect our rights and values. I am hoping the present circumstances were designed for the Grand Waking Up. I am scared and eager to see what happens next, and after that.

  2. Thank you so much for the background on Audrey. Her firm determination that all men are evil makes me a little queasy, so it is a blessing to know about the other aspects of her being. I will read her comments with a little less suspicion (although knowing you counted her a dear friend was already a pretty good recommendation).

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