I don’t like spam. I am not referring to the “precooked meat product” but to the ubiquitous electronic spam that clogs one of my email accounts. Usually these emails fall into one of three categories: phishing scams, ads for products and services I don’t need, and ads for the treatment of medical conditions I don’t have. My answer is always “no.” No, I will not give you my account number even if the money is to further the Lord’s work. No, I am not interested in meeting other Latino singles, as I am neither Latino nor single. And no, I am not interested in increasing the size of my “manhood,” as the only male in my household is the dog and he’s perfectly content the way he is.
Usually I find spam annoying, but in the past three days I have found it frightening. The emails in question contain innocuous subject lines such as “Momentum may get bigger this week” and “It’s time everyone has a chance.” But it’s the content of the messages that sent chills down my spine:
“It’s your turn to make money on war! As soon as the first bombs get to the earth in Syria, stone oil prices will go up as well as Monarchy Resources Inc share price!!! Begin earning cash today!!!”
When I read the first of these emails, I immediately felt sick to my stomach. It’s my turn to make money on war? I don’t want to make money on war! I don’t want to profit from violence. I don’t want to benefit at the expense of innocent people I have never even met. I am appalled at the suggestion.
Perhaps the timing of these emails has increased their affect on me. Today is the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a day of terror beyond any our nation had known since Pearl Harbor. The date also marks the beginning of American retaliation in the name of justice. So many lives have been lost. Why would I possibly want to make money on war?
Experts with much greater knowledge than I possess have outlined again and again who profits from war — from which corporations make the most money to which countries benefit from other countries being at war. A recent article on the website The Motley Fool asked, “Can You Profit from a Syrian War and Still Sleep at Night?” The author declares that he could sleep just fine if he bought more oil stock in expectation of a war because, after all, you should “hate the game, not the player.” I can’t make those kinds of distinctions.
On the other hand, maybe I already do.
The prosperity of the 1950s enabled my parents to go to college, which changed their lives and consequently mine. But that prosperity was won, at least in part, by U.S. involvement in World War II. I drive on an interstate highway system built by Eisenhower for the purpose of making troop movement easier. This blog would be impossible if computers hadn’t been created by and for the military. Then there are our more recent military actions. How have they affected me? Do I have more consistent access to fuel? or at a cheaper price? How do I know I’m not already profiting from war?
I already know that I profit from inequality. I already know that I profit from unfair labor practices. Am I doing anything to change those systems? Even the most diligent among us is buoyed by the status of the U.S., in ways we can’t begin to identify. So what’s a little more profiting at the expense of others?
I could argue that the difference is knowledge. I don’t knowingly buy clothes made in sweat shops. But do I turn a blind eye to easily available information in order to protect my ability to not know?
Perhaps the difference is intent. I don’t intend to profit from war. My status as a U.S. citizen means that I may unintentionally profit, but that’s not my fault, right? I don’t have the goal of making money from violence.
I have this argument with my daughter all the time: the difference between responsibility and blame. I know she didn’t intend to break the glass. I know she didn’t do it on purpose. It was an accident. Nevertheless, she dropped the glass. Is she to blame? No. Is she responsible? Yes.
I am not to blame for the results of U.S. military actions around the world. But I am responsible for my silence.