Mere hours ago, I was sitting at my laptop writing a bitter, self-absorbed essay about how much my mother’s flawed maternal instinct damaged my psyche. I was just launching into a tirade about how her first-class manipulative skills and her repeated insistence that I was worthless might have delayed a promising writing career when I saw two Facebook notifications. Since opening those Facebook messages, I am a different person.
By the time I had signed in, the two messages had blossomed into many, all the same. Attached was a video entitled, KONY 2012. Had the U.S. Presidential race welcomed a new candidate? (I am now ashamed of my ignorance). The little blurb did nothing to alleviate my confusion: “KONY2012 is a film and campaign by Invisible Children that aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him but to raise support for his arrest…”
Raise support for his arrest…”? Did I read it wrong? I did not. The 30 minute YouTube video was forwarded by quite a few friends who ran the gamut from young people in their early 20’s not known for their social activism to baby boomers like me. My curiosity was well piqued just by the first line: “Right now there are more people on Facebook than there were on the planet 200 years ago…”
Less than five minutes later, I was crying so hard I had to pause the video and start over. It took three tries before I could get through it.
After, I was ready to get on the next plane to Uganda and lead the hunt for Joseph Kony myself. Arrest and trial are too good for this monster. Pounding in my head like drums in the African night, one question kept playing over and over again: Why has this man been allowed to murder, rape, torture, and enslave for the past 26 years?
Africa. The name conjures many images and thoughts – none of them easy to fathom. A place of fascination for many, the vast continent and its people have remained one of this planet’s greatest puzzles. Considered to be the birthplace of humanity, it is also where humanity suffers the most, where humanity is often left to rot in the equatorial sun. It is a land rife with trials. And yet, the causes for Africa are everywhere and championed by many. Bono, Bob Geldof, Bill Gates, George Clooney – an endless parade of people with loud voices and deep pockets – all have taken up the cause of Africa.
And, still, a man like Joseph Kony evades capture and continues to spread terror throughout Uganda and neighbouring countries. This man (by calling him that I am being generous) uses children for his army, the LRA. The army has no purpose, no cause other than to tighten Kony’s strangling hold on the countryside. If the children resist or run, they are tortured. The lucky ones are killed outright. Many are forced to kill their own parents.
Invisible Children has been on the ground in Uganda for years. No doubt they have saved many children but as an aid group, they are virtually powerless against someone like Kony who operates outside the boundaries of humanity, justice, decency. What is it about Africa? What combination of ether and sun produces so many mad men intent, it would appear, on the ruin of their own land and on the decimation of their own people? Kony is just one of many.
As a naive outsider to the battle, Invisible Children’s “campaign slogan” outlined in the video seems risky yet deviously clever: make Kony famous. In this age of Facebook revolutions, it might just work. By making him famous, by shining huge blinding klieg lights on this monster, he will hopefully be unable to escape the glare. He will be captured, tried, and forced to answer for the unspeakable crimes of the past 26 years.
Today I asked my children to join an army. The army to stop Kony. Because this army’s fight will change the world for the better. Today I threw out an essay about the scars my mother left me with. Compared to the Invisible Children, I have no scars. I had a mother; she was mine for twenty-four years. She was never forced to give me up to a madman who would use me for sex and then sell or kill me. She never had to lie awake at night, knowing with terrible certainty that her children were in grave danger.
On April 20th, I will be out in the night making the light so bright that Kony will have no place left in Africa or in the world to hide. In the words of Jason Russell, “Who are you to end a war? I’m here to tell you, who are you not to?”
To watch the video, go to YouTube, search KONY 2012.