A couple of days ago, one of my friends posted a video on Facebook called “Kony 2012.” Out of sheer boredom, and having noted the fact that quite a few people had already “liked” it, I clicked on it to see what all the fuss was about.
The next 30 minutes changed my life.
Kony 2012, as Invisible Children describes it, is a campaign “to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.” Joseph Kony is the leader of the guerrilla group Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda, which has, abducted thousands of children over the last twenty-six years, ripping them away from their parents at young ages. These children are forced to become sex slaves, child soldiers, or murderers, often forced to kill their own parents. As Jason Russell, the director of the video, shows us, children all over the country are living in constant terror of the rebels, always looking over their shoulders, not knowing if they’ll live to see the next sunrise. Kony’s abominations put him at number one on the International Criminal Court’s list of most wanted people, and yet, ninety-nine percent of the world does not know his name.
Quite honestly, this video left me speechless. The only word I could formulate was “wow”; the only feeling I felt was astonishment. Astonishment at being a global citizen in the twenty-first century, and reading about a man pillaging across a country, raping and murdering people, recruiting innocent children to do the same. Astonishment that I live in the “social media era” where I hear which celebrity is eating at which restaurant at what time, but never hear about a man like Joseph Kony. Astonishment, complete and utter astonishment at our shameful ignorance of such vicious, cruel, inhumanity.
As any significant social issue must, the Kony 2012 campaign has received a lot of criticism from skeptics who say the video is factually inaccurate. For instance, the video claims that the LRA has 30,000 children, whereas this figure is the total number of children the LRA has abducted over he span of twenty-six years, and the size of the group has now dropped to only a few hundred. It was also discovered that after failed peace talks with the Ugandan military in 2006, the LRA was pushed out of Uganda entirely, and Kony himself is now believed to be in the Central African Republic. Some say the video comes across as more of a business deal, exploiting people’s vulnerability to such social issues to encourage them to purchase their merchandise.
My answer to them is: so what? It was certainly unethical on Invisible Children’s part to withhold vital information like the group’s current size and Kony’s present whereabouts. As for the bit about the video seeming like a business deal—think about it, how else can the organization hope to get funding in order to continue to spread awareness about Kony? So what if it is exploiting people’s need to help the world by making their own little contribution by selling t-shirts? That doesn’t change the cause they are working for. My question to the skeptics is: do these details really change anything? Do they, in any way, actually alter the cruelty of Kony’s crimes? Should he be allowed to walk freely just because he’s not operating in Uganda anymore? Or are his crimes exonerated because the number of child soldiers is only a few hundred people rather than the thousands we were led to believe? To all those poking fun at the rest of us trying to spread the word about Kony: No, watching a thirty-minute video might not make us social activists, but sitting back and mocking those who are trying to help makes you apathetic.
We have all witnessed crimes of hate and violence, be it the 9/11 attacks in New York or the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. Sitting on our couches, glued to the TV, we have all experienced the despair and frustration that comes with the realization that we can do little but look on and hope too many of our own don’t die. The Kony 2012 campaign finally gives us the opportunity to prevent such savage atrocities, such heinous violations of basic human rights—rights that every single person deserves, be it an American, and Indian or and African.
By making Kony famous, Invisible Children hopes to make him a less elusive figure, one that is easier to capture. Under pressure from the growing support of the campaign, the US government has deployed ten advisors to Uganda to help arrest Kony, but if the government notices a decrease in support of the cause, they will recall these advisors. But if we each donate just a couple of dollars a month to TRI, the organization that is helping fund the campaign, we can make a world of a difference. You can also show your support by signing the petition on the Kony 2012 website.
So wake up, CMC. Spread the word. Make Joseph Kony a household name. Donate a few dollars to TRI; buy the bracelets, put up the posters, wear the T-shirts. Use your Facebook status to share the video instead of a meme. Use those 140 Twitter characters to spread awareness, not ignorance. Despite what the cynics say, Kony does have to be stopped, because for once, the common man has been given the power to help stop an international criminal. Here at CMC, we are encouraged to be leaders, to take the initiative, to make a difference. Why? Because we are the next generation and we are responsible for what this world becomes.
So wake up. Spread the word