I was heading home on Wednesday when I received a text from the older Intrepid Junior Blogger. It was a simple request. It read : “Can you blog about something?”. She has never asked me to write anything so I was intrigued. I texted back “Well, what is it?”. And she replied “Kony” – and suddenly it wasn’t such a simple request anymore. I texted back that we needed to talk, and that’s exactly what we did when I got home.
If you haven’t seen the Kony video from Invisible Children then you probably don’t have access to any social media sites like Facebook or Twitter. Or friends who email you links. Or maybe you just don’t own a computer – because this video has had tens of millions of views in a very short time, going “viral” in a way that astonishes even the social media savvy.
The video is deeply affecting, no doubt. The idea that children are being abducted and forced to be child soldiers (and the girls forced into sexual slavery) is horrific. The fact that this has been going on for years is tragic. And it’s all linked to a man named Joseph Kony in Uganda, and the goal is to stop him, and his horrific crimes.
Of course, it’s not as simple as it first appears. From the moment the video shot to popularity it became controversial, because the group that made the video, Invisible Children, is deeply controversial. There are legitimate concerns about their financial practices. They contribute money to the Ugandan army, an army also connected to horrible acts of rape and looting. I’ve read so many different takes on this, links to which I will provide at the end of this post, and some are deeply troubling.
When I arrived home the Junior Bloggers and I sat down to talk. I told them about the other things I had learned, the other side of the Kony issue. The fundamentals were easy to determine – Kony is evil. We have a responsibility – a duty as humans – to stop evil. It was the other things that were not so easy to determine. Was doing something always better than doing nothing, even if the “something” you did supported a group/army that also did bad things? Was buying a package of bracelets and posters really effective in making change? And, in the end, we discussed how the world has changed. We talked about what would happen if Hitler was around today, and how the world would respond when they learned of his atrocities (after all, we live in a world where these acts are much harder to hide for any length of time). We talked about apathy, and we talked about social activism, and we talked about Uganda and child soldiers and Joseph Kony. We discussed the concept of “lesser of two evils”, and whether it was valid. We talked for a very long time.
And in the end that’s perhaps my point in all this. Wednesday morning the Junior Bloggers didn’t know who Kony was, and had never thought of child soldiers anywhere, let alone in Uganda. By Wednesday at 3 pm they did, and they had been thinking about it, too. And they had learned about it on their own, not from me telling them (as I do tell them about these things, but sometimes I think children tune their parents out as being “preachy”). They had brought this to me, not I bringing it to them – and I think, regardless of anything else, that is something. That is some good that came of the Kony video, all other concerns and allegations aside. It opened some eyes. It opened some dialogue. And it may even effect some change.
You see, I think social activism starts somewhere. Many, many people will move on to something else next week and Kony will fade into memory – but for some it will be the spark that ignites a fire. It will be the beginning of a journey of working for change, whether it is local, national, or international. I was an activist many years ago (anti-nuclear, we can discuss whether or not I was misguided at another time, people!), and my activism began somewhere. For some people – maybe the Junior Bloggers – it might begin with Kony2012.
In the end the Junior Bloggers decided doing something is better than doing nothing. They decided that while they would not put money into Invisible Children they still believed in doing something to stop evil like Joseph Kony. They decided they needed to think about how to do that, and how to act on the responsibility we all have to this world, and to others. I could see in their eyes that this had touched them, that the thought of children their age being forced into war and slavery horrified them. And to me, that means the Kony video did something, too. I think the truly important thing is that people educate themselves about everything before jumping on board. However, once educated I think the decision is theirs - support, don't support, share the video, don't share the video, retweet, don't retweet - whatever, as long as one is doing it with some knowledge of both sides (or as much knowledge as you can gain, as I don't think we ever know the whole story about anything).
When the Intrepid Junior Blogger asked me to write this post I told her it was a bit out of the scope for this community blog - but it is, and it isn't. It's an international issue that became very local, and that came right into my house on Wednesday, which placed it into my blogging realm. And truly, I write this because she asked me to, and because she feels it is important. In the very final analysis that's enough for me.
Read here for my friend Kathleen of Kikki Planet and her take on Kony2012
Read here for fellow Fort McMurray blogger Russell Thomas' thoughts
Read here for thoughts from "Visible Children" and Grant Oyston
and search the internet for many, many more thoughts!