If you are like millions of other Americans, you have recently learned about Joseph Kony and his actions in Central Africa over the past three decades. If you are not familiar with Joseph Kony, please take about 29 minutes to watch the video on this page.
The good news, this video has been viewed approximately 71 Million times in the past week – trust me, that’s pretty amazing on many levels. This video was put together by an organization called Invisible Children.
The frustrating news is this – no matter how much good you do, someone will always be ready to criticize.
As far as I can tell, the primary source for criticizing Invisible Children is a 2nd year Political Science student who posted a blog questioning several aspects of the group and the Kony 2012 campaign.
If you are really interested in reading all of the criticisms, well, they are out there – and people are offering a ton of analysis and opinions on all sides.
I want to chime in with a focus on a Delaware point of view in all of this.
I first learned about Invisible Children from a friend in 2007 – I think it started with, “Dude, you need to check out this DVD” – That DVD was “Rough Cut” – the film that documents how three guys from California went to Southern Sudan to see what they could see and ended up finding out about the child soldier situation in Uganda. That’s when Invisible Children was started.
Since 2008, I’ve been wearing an Invisible Children bracelet on my wrist – it’s a conversation starter – it’s something that others involved with Invisible Children can identify – and it’s a reminder for me that if three guys from California can have an impact, then any of us can.
My family and I have attended more than a few Invisible Children events, we have kept up with their progress – we have cheered their successes and we have mourned with setbacks.
Speaking of mourning – many in Delaware have been touched by the loss of Nate Henn – Nate grew up in Delaware, got involved with Invisible Children, traveled the U.S. to help spread the word, and then got to go to Uganda to spend time with his new friends there. But on July 11, 2010, Nate lost his life in a terrorist bombing at a rugby match. You can see the kind of person Nate was by watching this video.
One of the criticisms leveled at Invisible Children is that it somehow encourages “slacktivism” (the idea that by clicking a “like” button or watching a video you are actually making a difference in the world). I encourage you to take a look at this video and tell me that this organization encourages people to sit around and do nothing.
I would like to now quote from another person with Delaware connections. Jon Turtletaub is related to some friends here in Delaware (2nd cousin or something like that). Mr. Turtletaub is a successful film director (National Treasure, Phenomenon, etc.) and he offered some strong words for those leading the charge in criticizing the work Invisible Children is doing:
Really? Three young men who fly half way around the world to stop violence against children is something you feel the need to criticize? Three middle-class white guys risking their lives to stop a genocidal madman instead of hanging out at home and playing Angry Birds is something you feel needs to be brought down a notch?
Apologizing to Invisible Children … is irrelevant. Apologizing to the kids being killed and raped because you thought it might be smart to bring down the people risking their own lives to save them makes more sense. Imagine yourself in Northern Uganda talking to a child who has been mutilated and saying, “Oh, I know about what happened to you. I even wrote a blog criticizing the people who were helping you! Maybe my blog slowed their support and kept aid from getting to you.”
By the way, did you know that Delaware’s Senator Chris Coons is the only first-term Senator to chair a subcommittee? He is chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs.
Senator Coons wrote a piece for the Huffington Post this week, here’s a couple of excerpts:
I feel passionately that the more people who are watching central Africa, the more likely it will be that we come together as an international community to save lives in the face of conflict and mass atrocities.
There is a bipartisan consensus in Congress that Joseph Kony must be captured and held to account for his crimes against humanity. As my colleague, Senator John McCain, said last fall, “the LRA is one of the most atrocious and barbaric organizations in history.”
Kony’s evil has destroyed tens of thousands of lives, but he and what remain of his forces are now on the run. Our priority is now on apprehending Kony, bringing him to justice, and working with our regional partners to build a better, safer future for all of central Africa.
I encourage you to check out the complete piece here.
OK, that’s my rundown of Delaware connections to the Kony 2012 efforts – if you want to nitpick and debate the finer points of international politics, that’s fine – I’m going to continue encouraging our delegation in Washington to do the right thing and working with those who are committed to making a positive change in the world.