His mustache looks greasy and his hat is wrinkled in a â€˜guerrilla-rebelâ€™ kind of fashion. Joseph Kony stares to the side, glancing away from the camera lens, in the image that has now been seen by over one hundred million people worldwide. And that number is only going up.
The â€˜Kony 2012â€™ video, the thirty-minute brainchild of Jason Russell and the Invisible Children nonprofit group highlights the human rights abuses perpetrated by Joseph Kony and his militia of child soldiers in Uganda.
Across Facebook timelines, Twitter profiles and YouTube responses, the digital movement to bring the monster that is Joseph Kony to justice has become highly contagious and incredibly visible. The goal? To have a resolution to the â€˜Kony problemâ€™ by year’s end.
I’m all for it. Let’s hang the bastard for the world to see. He’s an animal. He’s butchered so many people and ruined so many lives. That’s not where I take issue with the Kony campaign.
My issue, more of a question, is why? Why now? Why do we care? I don’t mean why should I care â€“ that’s clear. I am asking why right now the United States has jumped on this viral video and created a legion of impromptu activists. The violence in Uganda stretches back generations with valiant efforts made by activists throughout those years.
The video has faced harsh and valid criticism. Perhaps, it has been alleged, the video over-simplifies the Ugandan conflict. Perhaps it is misleading: the video often depicts the issue as if Kony is openly operating in Uganda. By most accounts, Kony isn’t even in the country. The charity has also been accused of using more than its rightful share of charitable donations on its production side, leaving less for aid programs.
But again, my focus is on the why. And I blame Mitt Romney. I blame Newt Gingrich and I blame Rick Santorum. And, in part, I blame Barack Obama.
Americans want a unifying factor, especially young people. When things get tough, when people are unhappy and when stagnation in our societal progress is seen as looming, our society gravitates towards themes and ideas that unite us all.
As global terrorism took the stage in the early 2000′s and immediately following the September 11 attacks, Americans were in anguish. The potential of striking back – even of just being strong together – was a powerful coping mechanism. People weren’t sure about the future, people were divided on how to approach a response, but everyone knew that we were in it together.
It’s natural to look at the Kony 2012 video sensation and wonder if we’ve become so lost in the political discussion that we’ve chased off the youth, leaving them to find a common flag under which to rally. The overall cold shakedown by the socially regressive and the morally bankrupt (I’m looking at you, Rick Gingrich) â€“ all under the rule of a stagnant and disconnected president â€“ has pushed away the activist youth on both sides of the aisle. Where can they go? On what issue can they agree? Enter Joseph Kony.
It’s my belief that the surge of anti-Kony sentiment from a group that didn’t know about him, care about the plight of the Ugandans or even understand the massive scale of African atrocities â€“ past and present â€“ is a sign of the times. We need something so despicable, so seemingly black and white that thereâ€™s no room for divisiveness.
But didn’t we do that? Didn’t we Occupy Wall Street and really show â€˜the manâ€™ that Americans won’t stand for social or economic injustice? Not really, no. The Occupy movement was poorly structured, terribly organized, and caused more property damage than societal enlightenment. It was dismissed by the public when urine-filled water bottles were hurled at riot police and local governments spent millions on emergency safety measures. We needed a new issue. We needed something bulletproof, something that our polarized political views couldn’t infiltrate.
Unfortunately, the complex issues surrounding the Kony 2012 mini documentary â€“ along with Russellâ€™s recent psychological breakdown â€“ threaten to grind the momentum to a halt. But we will see. The video has been seen by millions of people worldwide. It has sparked discussion, think tanks and research projects.
But looking at the genesis of the movement, of the inertia that helped push the issue to the forefront of American activism, perhaps it’s not about Africa at all: it’s the fact that our own political arena has turned into a hopeless jungle.