Many years ago when I was a youth minister, I began our regular Wednesday night gathering by asking the kids to write down the names of the ten people most important to them. Then I said, “’I don’t have time’ is just a euphemism for ‘I don’t care.’ Then I said, “Your sports team is taking more time than you thought; cross one name off the list.” Except for a few minor protests, they did what I asked. I continued to come up with things that took their time and continued to tell them to cross out names. The mood in the room became tense, even desperate. Some were close to tears. I took it all the way out, until we had crossed out all ten names, and then I said, again,
“’I don’t have time’ is a euphemism for ‘I don’t care.’”
We talked for a good while about the veracity of my statement, struggling with the ideas and feelings, and then we shared Communion together. Yes, it was outlandish. Yes, it was somewhat over the top. And yes, it was true.
The evening came to mind for me this week when I heard that our government has spent nearly $500 billion so far on the war in Iraq. Here’s an ongoing count:
I have no idea how to wrap my mind around a half a trillion dollars. If I had a million dollars and was told to leave my house, spend a thousand dollars a day, and not return until the money was gone, I would not be back for almost three years. We spend $200 million a day in Iraq; I would have to be gone six hundred years to spend that much. $500 billion is 5,000 million. As I watch the counter move at such a rapid pace, I wonder if it isn’t fair to say, “’We don’t have money for that’ is the same as ‘we don’t care.’”
According to UN statistics, 40 million people in the world are HIV positive, most of them in the developing world. At the end of May, President Bush pledged, with great fanfare, to provide $30 billion to fight AIDS in Africa over the next five years, which amounts to almost $16.5 million a day — less than ten percent of what we are spending on the war.
The genocide in Darfur, Sudan began the same month the US invaded Iraq. According to the White House’s own numbers, the US has provided $1.7 billion in aid to the region during that time – and our government is the largest donor. We spend that much every couple of weeks to fight a war.
If time and money are euphemisms for compassion, our government is making a very clear statement.
And, I’m afraid, so am I.
The last time I wrote about Darfur was back in April. I keep links here, but I’ve not taken time to do my part, nor have I sent money to anyone. 2.5 million people have been displaced (a euphemism for running scared into the desert where they live lives worse than animals) by the violence. Over 200,000 have been killed. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 70,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed in the war there and those fleeing their country in fear and desperation are now counted in millions.
I’ve been busy with my own stuff. My car’s in the shop and is going to cost more than I expected. I have to go to work and then I have a lot of things to get done around the house. I haven’t had time. I haven’t had money.
I know this will probably be one of those posts that doesn’t draw many comments. I’m not sure how to respond to it myself. I wonder why we are so silent. Underneath the mindless chatter of the twenty-four hour news channels and their posturing pundits, we, the citizens, have been seemingly anesthetized by stress, fear, and overload to the point we are convinced our time and money can’t make a difference. Beyond the possibilities of mass movements, I realize I can easily go days without any significant conversations about Iraq or Darfur. How can that be? I’m paying attention. I think I’m a world citizen. I just haven’t had time.
Sara Miles talks about Jesus offering “a radically inclusive love that accompanied people in the most ordinary of actions – eating, drinking, walking – and stayed with them, through fear, even past death. That love meant giving yourself away, embracing outsiders as family, emptying yourself to feed and live for others.”
Man, I want to live that way. I want to love like that. I want people from Duxbury to Darfur to know that love. I keep saying that, yet, up until now, I haven’t had time to really live it out.