I don’t remember where I first saw the KONY2012 video posted, but within a few minutes it had popped up a dozen places in my social media feeds so it doesn’t really matter which was first. I’ve been ignoring Invisible Children for years. Not intentionally; my only point of contact with them was the stack of glossy-brochured support-this/buy-this onslaught in every youthworker’s inbox, mailbox, & event goody bag. They could have been giving away stacks of 20s and I wouldn’t have known.
They crept a little farther onto my radar when a friend of mine began to support their efforts, but not far enough to become informed. This article is also partially about my personal lethargy as a globally-thinking person. “Lacktivism,” as I’ve begun to call it. I knew that she was doing good things, and that was good enough for me.
So at this moment the KONY2012 video stands at 16+ million views on Vimeo and 70+ million views on YouTube. If you remain a non-viewer, it gives a little back story on the Invisible Children movement and quickly centers on its villain, the person of Joseph Kony. They’re professional filmmakers; it stands to reason that it’s a compelling half hour of viewing. I announced to our youth leadership that we’d be watching the video Sunday. Talked to our young adults about participating in the overnight event proposed by the film on April 20th. I even bought the $30 kit. I was in.
Then just as quickly other voices began to pop up. Dissenting voices: Kony isn’t in Uganda anymore. Kony is dead. Kony is just one problem; remove him and you’ll have another. Don’t support Invisible Children; they mishandle their finances. They overpay staff. Invisible Children is trying to be a “white savior.” Oh, and I almost forgot: the U.S. government paid for the video to convince us to convince them to go after the Ugandan oil fields.[sigh.]
I do get both sides. I get that it’s possible that IC has oversimplified a very complex problem on another continent. But I also get that if within a complex problem someone has been abducting and abusing children for nearly 30 years, it’s worth addressing. And the dissenters are right–I don’t fully understand the situation in Uganda. Really, my foreign policy overall has kinda been a shambles for a while. There’s so much I don’t know on both sides of this that… I should do nothing?
No. (And here I tip my hand.) I’m supporting the KONY2012 movement because what IC is asking of the masses is to simply raise awareness. If you pass out in front of me with a blood clot jamming up an artery, I promise not to dig into your chest myself. But I also promise to make others aware of your situation. I’ll probably even try to target people in the medical profession. Because I know I can’t fix you. But if I can bring you to the attention of people that can, I’ve helped. If I stand over you in an argument about whether the clot is in your leg or your arm or maybe you’re just resting, I’ve just wasted time.
IC isn’t asking anyone to show up halfway around the world with pitchforks and torches. They’re asking that we raise awareness so that those that do have a working foreign policy can begin to enter the conversation. Because they know they’re right about one thing: if we lose focus, everyone stops caring and goes on to argue about why we can’t solve the world’s next problem. Think everything is back to normal in Haiti & Japan? Probably. I haven’t checked in a while either.
We have lamented here of late that as Methodists we default too often to defining ourselves in the negative–being more aware in general of what we do not believe than what we do believe. I think that we’re just as guilty individually of doing the same with our activism. We craft expert arguments about why we shouldn’t help, why others are better qualified, or what’s wrong with the help system in place. Then we return to the nothing that we were already doing, satisfied that we haven’t accidentally aided a cause that might have a flaw.
You don’t have to support Invisible Children. But I hope we’re all supporting something. We’re still learning what it means to be a Christian in a global community. When it comes to helping, as a good Wesleyan I’m hopeful that we can work toward perfection in our activism instead of just waiting for it to appear.