As you can tell by title, you can guess what I am about to talk about. I will try not to beat a dead horse, because this topic has been run to the ground and dragged through the dirt.
These past few days have been difficult for me. Between school and loved ones getting very sick, I have been on an emotional roller coaster. Add the Invisible Children dilemma to that, and I don't know what to think anymore. As an avid supporter of IC, these past few days have been challenging for me.
If you haven't seen the video, here it is. If you have seen it, go ahead and skip it and read below.
There is something to be said for this video. The video now has over 80,000,000 views. 75,000,000 of those views came within nine days of the video being posted online. It is the most viral video of all time. Despite what you think of the video, good or bad, that's an amazing feat.
RELEVANT Magazine already did an article on this topic. If you haven't read it, I encourage you to read it before you read what else I have to say, because I do not want to repeat anything they have already covered.
Is Kony 2012 Good or Bad?
by Rachel Held Evans
Now that you are slightly informed (if you were not already before), we can start to talk about this. Well, I can talk, and you can listen, I guess, unless you comment. That would be cool. You should comment; I like hearing your opinions.
I posted the article above on my Facebook page with the comment, "What do you think?" What I was expecting was some intelligent conversation about why you should or shouldn't support IC and the new Kony 2012 movie. I guess I thought people would be more aware of IC than they were. I thought IC was more well known than it was. As it turned out, Kony 2012 simply brought IC into the eyes of everyone in America who had never heard of them before. Suddenly, people who had no idea about this organization (that is almost a decade old) have suddenly been made aware. To them, it is a new thing. And (in the new viewer's eyes) this video was something IC just threw together with information they had all just gathered recently and haphazardly.
If I was thinking, I would have better prepared myself for the responses I received on the post. People started picking specific things to use to attack IC. I will not go into details about the arguments; all you have to do is do a Google search about IC criticisms and you will find them all. As much as I want to address them and defend IC, I will resist. I think there is a greater issue to address.
I started responding to these posts very strongly. In fact, one of the people commenting called me out (and rightly so), saying, "I have to ask: Why ask people what they think if you're just going to attack the ones that disagree with you?" Ouch. He was right. I was attacking them as they were attacking IC. I began to ask myself, Why am I getting so defensive? I did some introspection and here is what I found:
I wasn't defending IC, I was defending an idea IC represented. After watching the video, I had to admit that I wasn't really fond of it. I didn't like that they omitted a lot of the Ugandan people's suffering. I don't like how they are making Kony famous. I don't like that you can purchase items with Kony's name on it; to me, you should be emphasizing the situation, not the person. To bring Kony into the spotlight is a disservice to those who have suffered at his hands. Yes, we should be made aware of what is happening with Kony, but we should go about it in a different way. I understand what they are trying to do, but if I were in their shoes, I would have taken a different route.
Although I am not thrilled with the method of their new message, I still support IC. But I am not defending IC when I was attacking people. If I were to be totally honest with myself, I would have to say that, yes, I am defending them...in a way. Despite my bias for IC, what they stand for is something greater than just defending Ugandan children.
Invisible Children stands for the ideals in all of us. These three men went over to Africa and saw a problem and wanted to fix it. Granted, they may have only seen part of the problem, but they saw a problem. What is different about them than it is in most every else: they did something about it. Yes, the way they are going about it isn't perfect, but they are at least putting feet to their words.They came back to the states and got organized. They put their dream into action. They did what they wanted and they didn't let anyone stop them.
Here in America, we are so thrilled about killing dreams.
"Mommy, when I grow up one day, I want to be a movie star!"
"Well, Sarah, being a movie star is really hard to do... maybe you should be a teacher, they always need teachers."
"Hey Adam, I have been really thinking about this, and I think I want to be a professional bow hunter." "Caleb, that sounds nice, but do you realize how unrealistic that is? I mean, how many people who bow hunt actually make it to the professional level? I know you're good, but let's get real here..."
"I have a dream to see Kony arrested and put on trial for the crimes he has committed."
"Do you realize how ridiculous that is? Do you realized that you are helping another terrorist organization in order to get to him? Do you realize how difficult it will be to catch him? Kony isn't even a threat anymore!"
Why do we kill dreams?
The internet has become a hotbed for people throwing out whatever they want to say without regard for the implications it has on the other. We can say some of the most cruel and hateful things about someone and, because we are American and we have the right to freedom of speech, that makes it okay. We criticize and we criticize and we criticize everything! As soon as we press the enter key, we click off the page and don't think about what we have just done; we go back to the world of "us" and don't give it a second thought. We pick at movies, songs, and people on The Voice who's vocal talent isn't quite up to par. (Granted, there are some people who legitimately cannot sing, but the majority of people on these shows can be good with some vocal training.) We talk about them as if they are objects.
I am reminded of the video of Jonah almost a year ago. (If you haven't seen the video, I encourage you to follow the link and watch it.) When I first saw it, I was horrified. I literally cried because I felt this kids pain. A few days later, after the video went viral, people started to question the authenticity of the video. People would troll Jonah and leave very hateful comments, telling him to come out and be real about what's going on in very graphic and vulgar ways. They were saying his feelings were all a hoax and that he was just some kid desperately wanting attention. In the process of talking about bullying and how people pick on him, EVEN MORE people started to hate on him! REALLY!? How low can we go that we harass a middle school kid who is reaching out for help?
Even if the video is fake (and you can decide for yourself after watching the interview here) and he was just some kid seeking out attention, there are hundreds of people out there in the same boat. Why do we attack them?! Why do we belittle their expereince!? Those feelings are real to him, whether they are deserved or not. Those scars are real on his arms. And people just attacked him because they saw inconsistencies in his behavior just like people find inconsistencies in other organizations that are trying to help.
Why do we belittle the things that do matter?
Some people seek social justice and we criticize them for not doing it well enough. At least the guys at IC are doing something. Most people who criticize others on the internet sit back in their comfortable computer chairs and drink their expensive coffees after writing a post critiquing a certain viewpoint and smile, not even thinking about a world outside of their own. They were just so thrilled to prove someone wrong and point out all the flaws in their plan.
These people don't do anything themselves.
Most of the critics don't contribute to a charity, they don't volunteer, they don't really stand for anything. They just critique all of the other people who do and find something wrong with them. Well, to be honest, organizations are made of humans. Humans aren't perfect. Therefore, the organization won't be perfect; all of them will have mistakes. If we are waiting for the perfect organization to show up, it never will.
Why has publicly criticizing things become so common in America? It has almost become cool and hip to point out all the flaws of whatever is trending. We want the Truth to shine. We want transparency, then we expect them to be perfect when they are transparent. We expect it in presidential candidates, we expect it in Hollywood stars, and pretty much everyone who is in the limelight. We tend to forget they are human too with flaws, histories, and hang-ups. When something happens with a Hollywood star, we immediately start to gossip about what is going on. We laugh at the Kardashians shortest wedding, when in reality that situation is so sad. We start to joke and trend funny topics on Twitter about the plight of Jason Russell a few days after the Kony video came out. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, the article is here.) Why do we find pleasure at the misfortune of others? That's really depressing to me.
I am guilty of this too; I am not exempt. I found myself criticizing organizations and making fun of them too. But that is wrong! It is low! We exemplify ourselves as perfect in our minds and diminish others as if they can never compare to us. We shouldn't be attacking organizations that are attempting to make the world a better place. We should be supporting them and encouraging them to do better. We should stand beside them and pick them up when they fall, not kick them while they are down and shout, "I told you so!"
I know, I know, as a skeptic myself, we do need to question everything to be smart in where we invest our money; we need to be good stewards of the money entrusted to us. We need to make sure the people are spending the money wisely. Instead of attacking them on the areas where they fail, we can encourage them and guide them on the right path. We need to hold them accountable, but still support and encourage them, not rip their dreams out from under them and leave them falling to their death. We should be pointing out the positive alongside the negative.
I think the problem arises when we don't do enough research or don't think enough about the situation. The problem of not doing the research happens on both sides. As the RELEVANT article describes, the danger is ignorance on both sides. On the one hand, people can blindly support an organization and almost worship it. Worshiping an organization without doing the research is stupid in my mind. What's to say someone in the organization won't take all their money? We should be responsible and careful with where we invest our money and do the research wisely before giving an organization anything.
On the other hand, we need to be careful not to criticize an organization so that they lose all support. The image I always get when we're done criticizing a person or an organization is a crying child in the fetal position on the floor as we turn our backs and walk away with a smirk on our face knowing we were right. Yet, most of the criticism are not well founded but have been reduced to simplistic arguments and blown out of proportion. The problem is, most critics find one flaw and exemplify it or they take an idea and reduce it to absurdity by comparing it to something more ridiculous. Their counterarguments are just as ignorant as the people who blindly follow the organization without doing research into the organization.
From what I have found with people who propose the counter-arguments of IC is that they simply don't believe IC and what they say--but they will believe another article online that counters IC without doing the research into where the person who wrote the article got the information--whether or not it is valid, or whether or not it is true. They jump on the counter-bandwagon just as readily as people jump on the trending bandwagons.
All I am trying say through all of this is to not jump to conclusions. I have known IC for a few years now, and I have done my research in supporting them. I would recommend everyone do the same. Do your research and come to your own conclusion. Rather than criticize it after watching one video and reading maybe a half-dozen articles criticizing it, try to look at both sides of the argument and try to remove your biases for a bit to see something from another perspective as I am trying to do. IC is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but of all the African support organizations out there (and trust me, there are hundreds of them), this one actually is making progress and change--not just giving handouts of shoes, bug-nets, or condoms; these people in IC are actually helping the people become independent not dependent on American goodies.
I understand this organization is not for everyone. Some people would rather support another organization. I am totally, 100% for that! Go, support them! Someone commented on my article and said there were worse problems in Africa than the Kony problem. I would agree. They talked about the water issue in Africa. I totally support groups that drill more wells. Go for it! Samaritan's Purse is one such organization I support that does just that. Go support them; put actions to your words. Don't just take a passive seat and point fingers at every organization and not get involved yourself. Don't be passive and point fingers at others where they were wrong. Don't belittle an organization when they are actually trying to make the world a better place. It is easy to be the grumpy old man on the couch griping about how much life sucks and how so-and-so is so stupid and everything is stupid and how everything on TV is stupid, etc. It is hard to actually get involved in something and see a world outside of yourself. Your paradigms tend to change once you are actually out in the situation and not looking at it from a distance.
Don't be passive. Make a difference. Be the change you want to see in the world. (to quote Ghandi)
Following His Call,
1 Corinthians 13:13