It’s complicated — responding to Kony 2012

It’s complicated — responding to Kony 2012 March 12, 2012

“Thinking critically is not the same thing as thinking cynically,” Dianna E. Anderson writes in a post on “On Kony 2012 and Thinking Critically.”

That’s an important distinction, although I suspect “thinking cynically” is actually an oxymoron. That’s why cynicism can be so tempting — it exempts us from the hard work of having to think and pretends to free us from responsibility.

The surprising popularity of the Kony 2012 video launched by the American advocacy group Invisible Children is problematic on several levels, as discussed in the many links below. I don’t want to see idealism exploited or misused. But neither do I want to see it dismissed or stomped into the ground. And most of all I don’t want to see it diluted into a narcotic.

On the positive side, Kony 2012 could potentially do for human rights what Hands Across America did for homelessness. On the negative side, Kony 2012 could potentially do for human rights what Hands Across America did for homelessness.

Pleasantly Eccentric: “Kony 2012 — I was viewer 57,733,541

I sincerely applaud the efforts of this film maker to draw attention to this problem of children soldiers. If this has raised awareness among youth in our country that is going to stick and inspire some to make a career out of advocacy and international aid then that is time well spent. … Am I going to wear a bracelet or put up a yard sign? Nope.

Unmuted: “You Don’t Have My Vote

Kony and LRA must go. That’s where my agreement begins and ends with Invisible Children’s work. I appreciate the organization’s commitment to the issue and can see its good intent, but I strongly question the group’s approach, strategy, and work.

Michael Wilkerson: “Joseph Kony is not in Uganda (and other complicated things)

It would be great to get rid of Kony.  He and his forces have left a path of abductions and mass murder in their wake for over 20 years.  But let’s get two things straight: 1) Joseph Kony is not in Uganda and hasn’t been for 6 years; 2) the LRA now numbers at most in the hundreds, and while it is still causing immense suffering, it is unclear how millions of well-meaning but misinformed people are going to help deal with the more complicated reality.

First, the facts. Following a successful campaign by the Ugandan military and failed peace talks in 2006, the LRA was pushed out of Uganda and has been operating in extremely remote areas of the DRC, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic — where Kony himself is believed to be now. The Ugandan military has been pursuing the LRA since then but had little success (and several big screw-ups). In October last year, President Obama authorized the deployment of 100 U.S. Army advisors to help the Ugandan military track down Kony, with no results disclosed to date.

Zack Hunt: “10 Things ‘Kony 2012’ Reveals About the 21st-Century Church

8. We like our theology to fit on a bumper sticker

… We want everything to be simple and easy to digest, which is why we ignore so many other global issues. We don’t want to deal with the messiness of complex global problems. It’s easier to pretend that everything can be solved with simple solutions. Which is why a 30-minute video about a nearly 30 year old atrocity is so appealing. And when I say “theology” I’m not simply talking about its abstract, intellectual side. If that’s all theology was, then perhaps fitting it on a bumper sticker or poster would be ok, but theology is meant to lead to a particular way of life. When our faith is reduced to nothing more than a Facebook share or colored bracelet, it’s not faith at all. It’s simply a nice thought that requires no action.

Ethan Zuckerman: “Unpacking Kony 2012

What are the unintended consequences of the Invisible Children narrative? The main one is increased support for Yoweri Museveni, the dictatorial and kleptocratic leader of Uganda. Museveni is now on his fourth presidential term, the result of an election seen as rigged by EU observers. Museveni has asserted such tight control over dissenting political opinions that his opponents have been forced to protest his rule through a subtle and indirect means – walking to work to protest the dismal state of Uganda’s economy. Those protests have been violently suppressed.

The US government needs to pressure Museveni on multiple fronts. The Ugandan parliament, with support from Museveni’s wife, has been pushing a bill to punish homosexuality with the death penalty. The Obama administration finds itself pressuring Museveni to support gay and lesbian rights and to stop cracking down on the opposition quite so brutally, while asking for cooperation in Somalia and against the LRA. An unintended consequence of Invisible Children’s campaign may be pushing the US closer to a leader we should be criticizing and shunning.

Enuma Okoro: “Kony 2012: Who’s Telling the Story?

It can [be] difficult to recognize or remember that the culture and people of whom you are historically a part already embeds within you an ongoing narrative about what it means to engage the world and others. What we really forget is that there already exits a master narrative (it’s Western-European by the way) constructed through histories of colonialism, economic, environmental, and physical violence, and racial classification.

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