Thursday, March 8, 2012

Stand Against Silence

I don’t think that Invisible Children are naïve. I don’t think that President Obama was ever blind to this matter either: his own father, a Kenyan, hails from the Luo, the same tribal group that has suffered so much at the hands of Kony. My hunch – and hope – is that they see this campaign as a way to encourage wider and deeper questions about wholly inadequate governance in this area of Africa.

The filmmakers at Invisible Children probably did a few things wrong.  For starters, I wasn’t entirely comfortable watching a 3 year old absorb information about children being forced to kill their parents and then labeling Kony as a “bad guy.”  Granted, Kony is the bad guy in this story.  But so is the government that’s effectively ignored him for over 2 decades.  But, yeah, as I parent I realize that’s a hard topic to distill for a 3 year old.

That being said, the guy narrating the video had every reason to see Kony as the bad guy.  Jason Russell, Invisible Children’s co-founder, has a personal connection to the story he’s telling.  He’s been there.  He’s seen, and focuses the lens of his camera on, the children.  He’s watched a now-dear friend mourn the brother he saw killed.  Having an actual connection to that kind of hurt makes things real for people.
So when we, a nation of consumers daily bombarded with violent images and political rhetoric and heads full of our own criticism, balk and take up verbal arms against a grass-roots movement which is asking only that we mobilize our nation’s resources on behalf of a people who are too young to save themselves, I have to wonder: who are we?

Has our affinity for self-help so out-paced the basic principle of chivalry, of using our resources and strength on behalf of those in need, that our first reaction when thus approached, that we fold our arms and decry the requestees as war-mongers and financial parasites?  Really?  After checking the veracity of the story [yes, the entire world seems to agree that children are being kidnapped and forced to be soldiers and prostitutes], we honestly think the best course of action is to sling mud and stuff our hands into our pockets? 
Okay, so we don’t agree with the current Ugandan government.  I can get behind that (given the very minimum charge that they allowed Kony to continue doing what he does).  We don’t want the focus of this very non-American issue to become the non-profit organization that brought it to our attention.  Spectacular.  Don’t give them a dime.  But do give them props for bringing it to the attention of those of us with our heads buried in the sands of our own little worlds. 

Even with those qualifications, could we not, still, advocate that our very able military “advisement and support” contingents empower the people of Uganda to stop Kony and then install new government officials?  Not ones that we’ve chosen, but ones that Ugandans choose from among their own people?  As Americans, couldn’t we all get behind the idea of a government of the people, for the people…in Uganda?  So that the people of the Congo and neighboring regions might live without the fear of kidnapping, terrorist activities, and the worst kind of atrocities enacted upon innocent children?  Can’t we agree to use our resources and strength for the benefit of basic human rights?     
Isn’t that something we should all work towards?

E-mail your Senator.  It costs you nothing more than moments of your time, maybe a few missed status updates.  Let your congress-person know that you want Joseph Kony caught and tried for his actions.  Let him or her know that you support a Ugandan election that will allow for the people to genuinely chose who their leaders will be.  So that their children will be safe.  So that every person may have the most basic of rights: identity and safety, and the extravagancy of the freedom to choose whom they will follow.

And then you’re not financially backing any specific organization, nor are you favoring a government that has also enacted atrocities upon its people, if only by omission.  You’re advocating for those without a voice.  You’re saying that you support them having one.  You desire that all should be heard. 

You’re standing up against


Jesus said,

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:34-35


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