It is safe to assume that if you have been near a computer for the past few weeks that you have seen the video from the organization Invisible Children (IC) called “KONY 2012.” If you haven’t, don’t feel bad, but realize some people may ask where you have been or claim you’ve been under a rock. To give a brief overview of the 29 minute video, the beautifully crafted film calls for all of the citizens of the world to contact our elected officials; specifically in the United States, and get them to pressure the powers that be in Washington D.C. to send military units after Joseph Kony. In addition to this, the video calls for a national day of action, April 20th, where participators and supporters are encouraged to take to the streets and to blanket the night with the KONY 2012 materials. The website is currently said materials such as selling action kits as well as other donation based products and actions for the cause. Before we go any further, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page in terms of understanding the situation.
The leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has been using children as male soldiers as well as female sex slaves. It is documented and known that this military organization has used guerilla war-fare tactics and has gone to extremes including the forcing of newly recruited children to killing their own parents. That or the children themselves have their faces mutilated at the hands of the LRA soldiers. Under the leadership of Joseph Kony, it is estimated that over 30,000 children have been forced into the LRA under his orders. As Invisible Children points out in the video, the International Criminal Court, based in The Hague of the Netherlands, issued a warrant for Kony’s arrest in back in 2005. Besides wanting the public at large to be aware of the situation, the IC video also highlights the role of the United States military order by President Barack Obama to send a coalition of around one hundred soldiers to Uganda to train their military to go and find Joseph Kony.
In spite of all this glaring evidence that Joseph Kony is indeed a war criminal and should be brought to justice, there have been countless status updates, tweets, blog entries, and news articles condemning the movement. Here are some of the arguments:
- Not all of the money is directly aiding the Ugandan people: in defense of Invisible Children, the organization never stated outright that all of the donations and proceeds would go to the people affected. Approximately 31 percent of it does, which is more than some well-respected international human rights organizations. People also have to bear in mind that IC hires staff across the United States for their campaigns and outreach initiatives.
- We’re only in it for the resources: others think that the only reason that the United States government is getting involved in this is because of the potential discovery of oil and other natural resources that are in Uganda. Particularly in the Post-9/11 culture, this is the fear of many Americans that we are about to enter into another external conflict like that of Iraq and Afghanistan. However, sending around a hundred soldiers to Central Africa does not constitute a new war.
- One of the Invisible Children founder’s can’t keep his cool: Granted, if you had the whole world criticizing you and something you’ve worked towards for years, you might have a breakdown too. I am not dismissing or even trying to excuse his behavior, but the stress and weight of the world may have proved to be too much for Jason Russell.
I present all of these issues to make a greater point. No matter how this situation was presented, and even if people in Uganda disagree with the film, the critical message the world should take is clear. Human rights and especially the rights of children worldwide need to be protected. This is something we should all agree on. However, because of all the negative press and bashing that has been happening over the past few weeks, I fear that the heart of the issue will be lost in the media frenzy.
Here in the United States, we are not truly in the position to judge when you realize that we have not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. At the same time, we can and need to utilize the viral tactics laid out by Invisible Children to bring attention to other human rights violations and travesties worldwide and here at home. For example, the fact that in New York City and other major cities the questions of basic rights are being presented via the Occupy Wall Street movement and that the response has been to fight against it by any means necessary. In addition to this, the law enforcement agencies of the United States, specifically the New York Police Department, have been monitoring and spying on Muslim organizations all along the Eastern Seaboard, they have been stop and frisking people of color in alarming rates.
Complaining on Facebook about all of your friends sharing the same link won’t change anything, just as sharing the link for “KONY 2012” will not make you a human rights activist with one click. Narrow-minded thinking will not get us anywhere in terms of gaining ground when it comes to human rights. Looking at movements such as this as well as those of the past should instead give us inspiration to make an impact in our own way.