Cooney’s take on Kony

March 22nd, 2012

One night over Spring Break, my Twitter feed started blowing up with something called #KONY2012. I was a little sleepy at the time, so I originally read the hashtag incorrectly.

“Wait, why do all these people want to stop me?” I asked myself. “What did I do to upset them all? I don’t even know all these people tweeting about stopping me!”

Then I realized that the name was spelled with a K, not a C. If people were really trying to stop whatever I was doing, they could also at least include another O and an E in the name.

Nevertheless, my curiosity led me to a YouTube video by a group called Invisible Children, whose goal is to raise awareness about Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony. For those of you that don’t know, Kony’s guerilla forces known as the Lord’s Resistance Army have been wreaking havoc on Uganda and its neighbors for over 20 years. Among the crimes committed by the LRA and Kony: the massacre of thousands during brutal campaigns, and the kidnapping of children – who are turned into either sex slaves or child soldiers.

Disgusting, horrific, sickening, troubling, disturbing … pick any of those words because they all are fitting to describe what Kony and the LRA are reportedly doing.

The only problem is that no one knew who Kony was before the video was posted. In one portion, Jason Russell (the filmmaker) explains to his young son, “He’s not famous. He’s invisible.”

I only slightly knew about  Kony before this. In doing research for a high school speech and debate topic on the International Criminal Court, Kony’s name popped up a few times because he is one of their prime targets for prosecution. The ICC, which is featured in Russell’s YouTube video, is an independent international court that seeks to bring those that commit genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes of aggression and war crimes to justice.

The ICC has good intentions. They want to prosecute Kony for “crimes against humanity and war crimes committed against the civilian population including murder, sexual slavery, rapes [and] abductions,” said the court’s head prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo.

But the court must rely on national militaries to apprehend their targets, so justice for the victims is not immediate. Meanwhile, Kony and the LRA are still active and causing problems.

The video that Russell and Invisible Children put together is brilliant. Watching it lights a fire under you to go out and do something to make sure Kony can’t hurt kids like Jacob (featured in the video) anymore. Their marketing strategy is working – the YouTube video has over 83.7 million views, while I’ve seen tweets and Facebook statuses galore about the group’s message.

But I want to take a more critical look at all of this after a couple of weeks since I first became aware of the campaign.

Personally, I’m saving my money and not sending for an action kit. Recent speculation about Invisible Children’s finances not only makes me weary, but the only encounter I’ve had with this group is through a computer screen. I would rather use my power of the pen to spread their message (as I’m doing right now).

That being said, I think the actions of Invisible Children are admirable. They seem to have good intentions and want to do the right thing – stop someone who is committing severe human rights abuses.

Why should you care about this issue? If we allow someone to strip others of their dignity, what’s to say the same can’t happen to us? We’re just creating a longer slippery slope and allowing ignorance to reign. Read all of pastor Martin Niemöller’s quote, “First they came for …” to understand my argument.

Remember, we go to John Carroll University, where we are encouraged to “go forth and set the world on fire.” Use your light to make Kony’s injustices visible.