Collateral Damage

It was an amazing argument. Two of my children were arguing heatedly about what the exact wording of a joke they heard on TV the night before. I had to step in and ask them if being right was worth losing the close relationship they had.

So often we become fixated on one thing and do not realize its effects on other areas of our lives. When we obsess about one problem of society the collateral damage can be worse than the original problem we sought to fix.

The War on Poverty and the War on Drugs are two examples of this. It seems to me we are in denial as a society about the collateral damage these wars have caused.

Pictures of children dressed in rags and looking hungry tear at our heartstrings. Pictures of their parents who work two and three jobs trying to provide food, shelter and clothing for them do not motivate nearly as much.

The way we wage the war on poverty inadvertently tells the unskilled laborer that he (usually male) cannot provide for his family as well as the government can. His family is better off without him. Id he loves his children and wants them to receive benefits better than he can provide them he has to leave. Wouldn’t it make more sense to provide a livable wage and a way for parents and children to live together with dignity and honor?

Similarly the war on drugs is focused on controlling the drug. We spend billions on law enforcement and imprisonment while violent criminals make billions and subvert many in all levels of society through bribery and threats of death. Maybe we could tax it and use that money to help people for whom the drug becomes an addiction.

Either way, I think the damage done by wars should cause us to re-think what we hoped to gain by the war.

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