Friday, March 9, 2012

Crazy For Wild Joe Kony

Joseph Kony is a bad and crazy guy. He is the head of something called the Lord's Resistance Army and for the last twenty-six years he's been running completely amok in Uganda and a couple of other central African nations. Much of his "army" apparently consists of kidnapped boys. His guys swoop into a village grab up the eligible recruits then kill their parents and neighbors so the kids have no one to go back to. He also kidnaps girls for use as sex slaves. Naturally you have to keep the rank and file's morale up somehow because I'm sure the pay he is offering isn't on a par with other "armies."

I'll admit right now that until this morning I'd never even heard of this crazed beast. The internal affairs of Uganda isn't high on my reading list. It is safe to say I was in the vast majority. That is until a fellow named  Jason Russell came along. Russell is a bright young film maker and an activist with the San Diego based organization, Invisible Children. Russell knows his craft and he and his people know it is a brand new age when it comes to communication and spreading the word about your cause. His twenty nine minute documentary, "Kony 2012" has not, as far as I know, aired on any TV station, at least not in full. It has been released on You Tube and something called, Vimeo. Between the two sites the film has taken nearly 70 million hits. That is roughly 69,999,016 more views than this blog has.

According to Russell his aim is to make Kony famous because once everyone knows about him they'll do something to drag him into the dock at the International Criminal Court. He has all the starry eyed exuberance of a true idealist. He is and has been speaking to young people about Brother Kony and the plight of the kids in Uganda, infusing his audiences with an all too familiar gushing enthusiasm and purpose.

As far as getting the word out, he has for the most part achieved his goal. People such as Oprah Winfrey, Rihanna, and Jason Bieber have been tweeting about the film to their tens of millions of followers. George Clooney made a brief cameo in the production as did our old pal, Senator James Inhofe. Joseph Kony, the Lord's Resistance Army and the children of Uganda have become the latest American craze. It is suddenly oh so in to despise this guy and to do something, anything, to feel like you are helping out. Bracelets and posters are being hawked by Invisible Children.

Of course there are critics. There always are. Questions have been raised about just how much of the money being raked in is actually going to Uganda. Some doubters have thrown out the figure 32%. Invisible Children says a little over 80% goes to its "mission" The latter figure is probably true in one sense. However the first figure is also true. The problem is, as Ben Keesey, the CEO of the organization admitted on TV, the "mission" includes production costs of the film and promotional costs which include everything from posters, bumper stickers, and bracelets to the salaries of Internet mavens. By the time those are covered only thirty percent or so actually gets to Uganda. Which in the end is no small thing. After all it is more than they were getting and at least now they are at the beginning of their fifteen minutes.

In the film Russell claims that young people can and will change the world. He knows the new technology. As he points out, right now Facebook has more members than there were people on the planet just 200 years ago. Everyone can talk to, well, everyone. The future is full of hope and commitment. I do wish him luck. However without trying to sound like a complete cynic, I've been there before. Changing the world that is. It really didn't work out. After all, I'm stuck with Inhofe, who, when not wanting to run Joseph Kony to ground, claims global warming is a socialist scam and questions the birth place of Barak Obama.

Estimates are that Joseph Kony's army has kidnapped over 66,000 children the last 26 years. He wants to turn Uganda into a theocracy ruled by his interpretation of the ten commandments. He tells his "soldiers" that if they draw a sign of the cross in oil on their chests before battle bullets cannot hurt them.

So sure, put the brute down. Just remember this, young Mr. Russell and all you avid children out there. You can kill Joseph Kony. You can capture him and try him for crimes against humanity. You can put him away where he'll never harm another human being. Then, guess what? We'll make another one just like him somewhere else. We always do. That is a part of the world that never changes.


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