Thoughts on Kony
It’s hard to be on social media and miss the buzz on the KONY2012 campaign. In all honesty, I have not watched the video. The LRA’s reputation precedes it. In October, President Obama announced that he was sending 100 soldiers to Africa as advisors, specifically to target the LRA. His announcement made a little noise in the newsmedia and then disappeared. It is a little odd therefore that less than five months later, this massive campaign ignites the social media. I see it as quite a testament to the ephemerality of news and both the awareness and memory of many who seem to spend more time on social media than the news media.
Joseph Kony has done horrible things. What makes his atrocities even worse is he claims to do it in the name of God (amid a strange mix of occult tribal faiths). I would dearly love to see him stop, preferably repent, or failing that, be removed from the scene permanently.
Yet, when I first heard of the KONY 2012 campaign, I had reservations. I guess the main reason was that I’ve been on the web long enough to be suspicious of any online movement or sensationalism. Thus, I didn’t rush to watch it or support it. Sure enough, as more information came out about the Invisible Children organization, there was reason to be cautious.
The IC then released a statement to address some of the criticisms. It helped, but did not resolve all of my questions. Note that I am not condemning IC or even saying their heart is in the wrong place. I am saying that it pays to look past the emotionalism and get the whole story before jumping on a bandwagon.
I think this article does a reasonable job of looking at the situation from multiple angles and recommend it for something to think on.
My main issue with the Kony campaign is that IC is urging us to violently intervene and/or further militarize the Ugandans to go after him. It seems an awful like supporting the Taliban to fight the 'evil Russians,' only to go back 10 years later and fight the 'evil Taliban' and be shot at with our own weapons. We have a history of making poor choices regarding with whom we get in bed to fight a bigger problem, only to have that former partner become our next nemesis.
We already know the Uganda government does not share our values. Why would we make them more powerful to get rid of a smaller evil? If we are going to fight evil (and we should), then let's fight all of it, and if that's too big (and it is for us by ourselves), then let's take care of it in manageable pieces.
Part of doing that means that we need to plan for the clean up: with what will we replace the evil? Are we committed to fill in the vacuum with something wholesome? And actually, the real first question is, for a given evil, who is the good entity most responsible for dealing with that evil and how can we empower them to do it?
At what point do we do more harm by getting involved in someone else’s problems? This becomes all the more important when we realize we have our own share of problems we are successfully ignoring. We send 100 advisors to stop KONY, but what about the human trafficking in and out of our own country?
It is easy and romantic to get in an uproar about atrocities thousands of miles away where distance simplifies a very nasty mess to ‘us versus them.’ It is much harder to address the multivariate and tangled issues of homelessness, the deficit, the dignity and station of the poor, and our own institutional corruption.
As I wrote a few months ago, there are enough problems in this old world for us each to latch on to our own ‘cause.’ Therefore, in choosing one, it pays to get informed and choose wisely.