BEWARE, JOSEPH KONY SIGHTING
by Hilary Hodge
[photo DJB via Wikimedia Commons]
[published: April 4, 2012 (4:15PM PST)]
“I’m not here to justify the cause, or to count up all the laws; that’s all been done before.” -David Foster, Linda Thompson and Peter Cetera.
In the past few days, social networking sites have been inundated with one particular video, a video about Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. The video has gotten so many hits that internationally syndicated radio shows and television programs are picking up the issue and discussing it. This video has taken “viral” to new levels, experiencing fame that even Antoine Dodson failed to garner. The fact that an issue of social justice, rather than a novelty video, has taken a lead in web fame is at least a step in the right direction. It is a sign that people might be waking up and becoming more willing to entertain such issues. It is a great blessing.
I find it suspect, however, that, in just a few short hours, millions of Americans have spent thirty minutes with a video, and, afterward, they’ve decided which side of a conflict they fall on in a major geopolitical issue that they previously knew little or nothing about. After a short video, many have now pledged their undying allegiance.
Joseph Kony deserves to be arrested for crimes against humanity. He absolutely does. He absolutely should be arrested. And he should be tried in the International Criminal Court for the crimes that he has allegedly committed.
But here is where I dissent from many of my fellow Americans: While Joseph Kony’s tactics are abhorrent, criminal, vile and evil, I know that Uganda is not a single-sided issue and I will not pledge support for Joseph Kony’s arrest at the expense of other issues in that region. The Republic of Uganda is ruled by the internationally recognized Yoweri Museveni. His rise to power has been pock-marked by a number of sordid affairs, many of them amounting to very much the same tactics that are featured in the Invisible Children YouTube video, tactics that Joseph Kony has used to gain his own power from his own rebellion. What has been happening in Uganda has been happening for a number of years. It has been happening on both sides of the political spectrum and neither side, or any splinter groups, can claim that their hands are clean. And frankly, much of what is happening there is a result of our policy at home.
The Republic of Uganda is a landlocked country in East Africa, bordered on the east by Kenya, on the north by South Sudan, the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and on the Southwest by Rwanda. Many people have seen the Oscar-nominated Don Cheadle movie “Hotel Rwanda” and much of the knowledge we have about the conflicts in that region come from that movie. I hate to admit it, but because geography is a sadly sagging subject in American education, a lot of what people know about the region comes from Hollywood films like “Blood Diamond” and “The Constant Gardener.” A small handful of people have taken note of other issues in that region. Because of an under-funded publicity campaign, a few people took notice about the conflict in Sudan and the brutal civil war that has been raging there. Others can attest to an education about the Western influence in the Congo from reading the acclaimed book “King Leopold’s Ghost.” There has been so much ink spilled about the conflict in that region of the world. But there is still an incredible ignorance about the history of the region, the layers of the reasons for conflict, the massive weapons proliferation and the multi-sided, multi-faceted pain that has plagued the regions and nations involved in what’s been happening in Uganda for generations
Yoweri Museveni is not a decent man. Neither is Joseph Kony. Support for Museveni’s dictatorship at the expense of the LRA amounts to favoring one brutal regime over another.
Americans are very powerful people, who, when they put their mind to something, can change the world. Let’s not squander our power for naught. Our collective ignorance about Joseph Kony and Uganda is insurmountable and won’t set us free. A 30-minute YouTube video can’t provide the knowledge or background about an international issue to even begin lobbying for righteousness or remotely start preaching for justice.
International issues are difficult. Conflict is a hard to nail down. I am for peace. I am for fairness. I am for justice.
But justice begins at home. Before each person in the USA is ready to get involved in the international politics in Uganda, maybe we should first look to ourselves for improvement. Look at our education system. Look at child care in this country. Look how we treat our prisoners, our protestors. Look at how we tend to our hungry, our elderly, our disabled, our poor. Look at how we brutalize and disenfranchise women in this country. Look at how we treat our animals. Look at our foreign policy and the conflicts we are already involved in. Look at our environmental policy (or lack thereof) and our collective degradation of the earth at home and abroad. Look first at those in need in our own county. Look first at our own glass house before we cast stones. Decide where your voice is needed. Raise it there.
If even a fraction of the people in this country who have watched the Kony2012 video, found enough passion to take notice of our own issues, the whole world would be a better place. I remember Barack Obama walking to the podium in Grant Park, Chicago on November 4th, 2008, to give his presidential acceptance speech and to pledge that we would live by “our power of example rather than our example of power.” Whether we think that our current administration has lived up to such a promise, the people of this country still can. If we are truly going to make a difference abroad, we must first make a difference at home. Justice begins at home.