by: Mar Curran
I would like to start this off by telling you were I am coming from. I am white and male-identified. I am coming from a middle class, suburban background. I have always gone to fantastic schools and was educated from fairly early on, actually, about Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army by a very special teacher in high school.
None of this makes my opinions more valid, more special, or more real than anyone else’s. They do show that I am owning my privilege in a complex situation, and I am trying to acknowledge that in a place where I feel a lot of privilege is being overlooked. I come from a place of love, for people and the world.
It baffles and hurts me that we live in a world were people are systemically oppressed, physically and mentally harmed, and not allowed to express themselves to their full potential. I’m an idealist in a lot of ways; I see how simple it should be to fix some of the world’s problems, and how dedicated people should be to the more complex ones. I don’t want to belittle any amount of effort people put into change, because every ocean is made of a billion small drops.
I appreciate that the Invisible Children’s video has raised awareness around Joseph Kony. It’s so important that people know about those who harm innocent people. No one should live in fear, no child should be turned into a soldier or sex slave, no group should profit from ruining lives. Raising awareness is never a bad thing. Thinking that is enough for us to do might be.
I am frustrated by a lot of the conversation around Kony. What do people will happen if Kony is killed? The Ugandan government, which has a far from great track record with human right violations itself according to more than a few sources, will fix everything? That a vacuum of power will not exist, no one else could step up and take his place? That the economic disparities that plague the country will be righted? I am frustrated that for some people this is a simple problem; get rid of the “bad guy” who hurts children, and Uganda will have been saved by three white men who made a video. It’s okay that their video, organization, and mission are problematic, right? They’re representing the “good guys.”
Who are the good guys? White Americans? As if the LRA couldn’t possibly escalate their attacks, especially since Congo ordered Ugandan soldiers out of their territory, allowing LRA soldiers a place to regroup and restrengthen. As if Kony is even still in Uganda, and as if people there don’t want to move on since the deescalation of his attacks over recent times.
This isn’t a simple one-fix solution. It doesn’t just call for critical thinking pf those who chose to engage in the dialogue by reposting the video, it requires it. Harlan Ellison said, “You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.” By choosing to propagate the information Invisible Children sold to you, by believing it and promoting it, you gave yourself the responsibility to educate yourself on it and defend it. If you know the facts and are fine with them, then great. If not, then be open minded to the possibility that more is going on than can be highlighted in a thirty minute video with an agenda. There are even Gawker family articles (one & two) for those of you who can’t power your way through a Reuters search for some reason.
I do not have a simple solution, because there isn’t any. I do know that it is important to maintain the voices of those involved with the conflict, however. How many of those who shared the video have actually looked into what is being done by the people of Uganda for this situation? Does it seem weird to you that the work of groups empowering the Ugandan people by having them run the organizations, make decisions, be the ones making decisions, has not been featured?
All I ask is that people use a critical lens when examining the facts being given to them about Joseph Kony, think about what will actually make the situation better, and what our role in it should be.
Mar Curran is a trans/queer rights activist and community organizer; he is on the boards of Video Action league, Advocate Loyola, the Queer intercollegiate Alliance, and works with GetEQUAL. As spoken word artist, he has read at each All The Writers I Know event. He studies Communications and Women’s Studies at Loyola University Chicago. Curran likes beer and cats.