The Children are Not Invisible: PART II.

I would like to begin by thanking everyone who has commented or emailed or otherwise communicated with me on my blog yesterday. Your insights, critiques, and kind words are treasured in helping me grow and reaffirming of the very ideas behind this movement: that we, as a global community, can begin to engage in a discourse over human rights violations across the world. In lieu of such comments, i want to address a few things that have been said from a variety of people as something of an addendum to yesterday’s blog.

First: I AM NOT AN EXPERT. If that is how i came off, i apologize, for i in no way think of myself as someone whose opinion is any better than anyone else’s. Yes, i have lived very briefly (10 weeks this past summer, for new friends) in Uganda, and yes, nonviolent conflict resolution is a path i treasure and value above all others, but this only gives credence to me standing on a soapbox so long as we all know i’m just spouting my opinion, not universal truth or the ultimate end of the conversation.

And while i like to think i’m informed and passionate, i will never ever claim to be able to “speak for Uganda.” That, in and of itself, is too broad to even turn to a Ugandan person to answer (it’s like asking me “What is like being female in North America?” I can only answer to my personal experience, not the transcendent unique feeling every single woman has on the continent). Instead, might i direct you to some other incredible Ugandan leaders and capacity-building heroes that are good places to begin deepening our understanding of the complexity of the ramifications of this conflict together.

So, thank you for your questions – i will do my best, but often will try to direct you to other sources that i feel might better answer the dilemma.

This brings me to my second contention: in standing against Kony 2012, i am not standing against the conversation that has started. In fact, i am in full support of such a conversation. I appreciate that the Kony 2012 video has gone viral – because it also means critique of it has too, and this tells me that people are not content with just watching a 27 minute video to consider themselves educated on a global issue. We’re talking, you and i, right now, using one of the most frightening and awesome weapons the world has today: the internet. Invisible Children’s model of utilizing social media to instigate these conversations is brilliant, and i am so glad to see that this tool is being used to tell multiple sides of the story.

And, ultimately, this is what i care about. Yeah, i have some qualms with IC. But i have tried to engage myself critically and with an open mind in the discourse of the Northern Uganda conflict since i was fourteen. At risk of sounding self-congratulatory (which, again, is not my intent): i was often disillusioned by how little my peers knew then about a war where people our age were the primary victims. My sophomore year in high school, i was the Vice Principal of nothing less than the Invisible Children chapter at my school, because they cared. They understood why i, as just a teenager, wanted to be involved in a movement and conversation that concerned something far greater than myself and, on the surface, foreign to the world i knew. They got this, because they wanted people my age to care – and i would say, here and now, they’ve done a pretty good job in starting this conversation among many of my peers. I will never forget this, nor will i discredit or debase an entire organization based on some disagreements over their presentation or policy. There is no such thing as a perfect NGO. This doesn’t mean i don’t stand by my criticisms; my opinion is no different today than yesterday, but in much the same way i am asking all of us (myself included) to imagine complexly, i have a complex opinion on a large, multi-faceted body of people and ideas.

Ultimately, what i wanted to express yesterday and intend to here today is this: don’t stop at the IC videos; they have done a superb job at getting the conversation started among their target group which is, in their own words “Western youth.” I know, from your comments and queries, that many of you were really first exposed to these tensions and the crimes of Kony (etc) in the last week from this video. Thank you for caring enough to watch it – and thank you for also wanting to dig deeper and learn more. Apathy will be the destruction of the human race, but this kind of dialogue makes me hopeful this end isn’t as fast-approaching as i once thought.

However.

This is not an issue that solely concerns Western youth. Nor is Kony a threat who sprung up yesterday in terms of international action or conversation. My concern with ALL of the hype around this on the internet at present – criticism included – is that this is turning into an internet fad. That, this time in two weeks, when the facebook statuses and tweets are lying in the archives of our social media-driven output, the conversation will fizzle out. In the same way, it worries me that there is a mentality that once Kony is captured, the war’s ramifications will largely come to an end.

We cannot let this craze be the end of the conversation, in the same way that we cannot think capturing Kony will end a system of inequality, poverty, and injustice. As John Green says, “the truth resists simplicity.” For some of us, as an internet-driven collective, this is a beginning in engaging in real-life conversations about American privilege, distributions of wealth, war, reactions to conflict, and governmental roles in peace efforts. For some of us still this can be a frustrating, hands-thrown-in-the-air “of COURSE!” moment wherein we express that this conflict is much bigger and much deeper than one man. All sides are needed in this conversation as we embark together, moving forward to build tomorrow.

And, while i think it goes without saying, i want to add that no conversation when grappling with trauma and hope of this magnitude and complexity is easy. But we should all do well to remember that the people talking are people and therefore we should remain respectful of opinions contrary to our own.

And one final note: nonviolence is not merely a strategy. It is a way of life – though it can be employed as a strategy. The best metaphor i can think of is this (wherein it becomes excruciatingly obvious i am, in fact, a religion major): you can read the Bible as a scholar to examine its historical value and to inform your opinions on literature, society, or its misconstrued use in American politics. In this context, your reading may not be faith-based, but is a tool to reach a greater end. Conversely, if you read the Bible as a sacred text (which doesn’t necessitate you remove a critical eye) and see its rich complexity and contradictions and laws for life as something by which you intend to pour every facet of your being into, you are reading the text as a way to live your life. The same could be said for reading the Bhagavad Gita or the Qur’an. On one hand, it is a tool to understand something; delving deeper, it is a road map of beliefs. I believe in nonviolence, and i ask you in your responses to not write this off as a “foolish strategy.” This is my life, and i am (perhaps foolishly, i admit) being vulnerable here and stating that.

I respect those of you who think a military intervention is needed, but i disagree. While this side to the conversation is complicated, i will save longer thoughts for another time – in part, because i’m not sure if it’s really my right to have any say in how Kony is brought to face justice. Instead, i shall employ the words of two men whom i admire greatly, as cliché and over-used such phrases might be: “The arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Mahatma Gandhi.

Shalom to you all.

some helpful links:

interview with arhcbishop odama (a man whom i have met twice and am in remaining awe of – a nonviolent activist and leader in uganda). thanks to thera for this link!

the acholi religious leaders peace initiative (really, read this!)

an incredible vlog and african response to this hype. please, if you read or watch nothing else, read/watch this. 

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