Don’t dismiss the Kony video
Last fall, my high school history teacher showed our class a documentary called Invisible Children. It was amazing: We got to know a boy in Uganda named Jacob, who shared his fears about being abducted again and talked about why he would never be normal. It made me want to do something, though I wasn’t sure how I could help.
The movie had been made in 2005. Then on Mar. 5, Invisible Children Inc. released a video on YouTube about Joseph Kony, head of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army, based partly on the documentary.
When I saw the video I decided I had to show my family. It was very moving, even more so than the original movie, and was deliberately directed toward teenagers. It showed young kids doing something — putting up posters, wearing bracelets and T-shirts, and writing letters to politicians and celebrities. I decided I wanted be a part of this.
I got on Facebook and created a group called “Blanket Marin,” with a goal of creating a big event on the designated day, Apr. 20. In two days, 216 people had already agreed to join in. We were going to cover Marin in posters to make Joseph Kony infamous.
I’ve since seen the criticism of the Kony 2012 campaign, and I think a lot of the people who don’t like it are missing the point.
Everyone wants to be a part of something big and feel like they can be heard. Sending letters to politicians about Joseph Kony is not just about stopping one terrible person, but also about learning to take part in a larger political process.
People have complained about the simplicity of the video, but that is what a lot of us liked about it. If it was just full of information about Kony, I probably would have lost interest. But no one can watch a video of a boy crying — and saying he doesn’t want to be alive — and not care.
“It reaches out to kids in a way that is relatable and not boring, like those sad voice-overs on TV,” said my friend Jordan Jacobs. “It makes kids feel like they can have an impact on the world and make a change.”
I also don’t believe that Invisible Children Inc. is a fraud. They were three kids who went to Africa because they wanted to travel and make a movie — they were not out to line their pockets with money. The group is trying to create change, and I don’t see why it’s a bad thing if they are spending money on making videos and getting publicity.
I know that the political situation in Africa is not simple. As Mrs. Ferguson, my English teacher, said: “I think it’s great to go for it, but we need to address the whole situation, all the people using children. Kony, he’s not the only one.”
We know we’re not solving all the problems of Africa. But the only way any problem can be solved is if people get involved. What’s wrong with giving teenagers the feeling that they can play a small part in righting the injustices in the world?
“I think the fact that we teenagers are expressing our feelings and raising awareness about Kony is very important,” said my friend Danny Liebster. “No human being should be treated the way Kony treated people.”
As for what happens to Kony, I think that’s for the people of Uganda to decide. But if I can play a small part in bringing attention to him and leading to his arrest, that is inspiring. And I hope it inspires every young person to want to be a part of something bigger.
PHOTO: Jason Russell, co-founder of non-profit Invisible Children and director of the “Kony 2012″ viral video campaign, poses in New York, March 9, 2012. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid