I first heard of Invisible Children about six years ago. I had traveled to Uganda five years prior on a mission trip when I was in college, and through some Ugandan friends learned a little about the country’s sordid past and recent history. Naturally, when I first came across the IC documentary, it was personal. I was so moved that I started a little movement I called “Action” in which I would host screenings of films like Invisible Children, Born into Brothels, God Grew Tired of Us, etc. I did as much research as I could about the stories and what could be done to support organizations working in those various situations. I even got a group of friends to join me for a walk-a-thon to raise money. It wasn’t much. But I wasn’t trying to change the world overnight. I wanted to make my community aware and I wanted to make them do something about that new-found awareness – even if at times it was just getting together to pray about it.
In the last few days, IC has been back in the spotlight with a new mini-documentary. Millions have watched the new video, 67.7 million on YouTube to be exact. But the new film is blazing across the internet with lots of criticism on its tail – criticism of IC, the campaign, and the supporters. Regarding the video, I will say this: 1.) Whether or not you agree, the campaign and video are creatively and intelligently produced; and 2.) Despite its exceptional execution, there are some key pieces of information not addressed in the campaign/video that I take issue with.
But, that’s not what this blog is about…
I believe in researching both sides of an issue before making a decision. So, although I wasn’t new to IC’s work, I decided to do some reading on the other side of the fence and investigate these allegations. I was comforted to find some very well-written and informative critiques from people who genuinely care about the situation and understand its complexities. I want to thank those writers for helping me be an educated consumer (1, 2).
But unfortunately, most of what I found was more emotionally disturbing than the IC video. People are clearly in an uproar, and some of them don’t seem to really know why! Some are opposed to supporting the cause in general while others have an aversion to IC’s method of using emotionally evocative propaganda. Some are uncomfortable with the use of former child soldiers in the film. Some are simply annoyed by the film’s “indie-like” quality. Several noted an issue with the way the organization is run and an apparent lack of transparency in finances. There was a repeated quote about the amount of money spent on travel and shipping film equipment. One writer even suggested that readers watch an hour of television in lieu of jumping on a charity “bandwagon”. Many chanted that this is another “fauxtivist fad” that would soon fade, yielding no results. About the one thing everyone on both sides seemed to agree on was that Joseph Kony is a notoriously “bad guy” who has committed unspeakable crimes. Yes, actually, every article I read made it a point to note the horrors of this man’s actions and the need for justice.
GREAT!!! Now what? The solution, then, is… what? All this brouhaha! All these impassioned writings! All these carbon-copied opinions expressed as facts! For what, exactly? So we can have a reason to turn a blind eye? So we can use caution to cover our apathy? So we can continue sitting on the sidelines hurling insults at the players on the field while not willing to put forth the effort to play or assist? All this criticism is nothing but smokes and mirrors distracting us from the real issue. And the real issue is LIVES! YOUNG LIVES! Children being torn apart while the “civilized” world is either deciding IF they “should get involved” or criticizing HOW others are getting involved. I mean, seriously! At least two articles criticized that Kony “may” no longer be in Uganda but “may” instead be in Congo. Nice. Is the suggestion then to wait fifteen, twenty, thirty-thousand more LIVES before anyone intervenes??
I believe if I am not part of the solution, then I am part of the problem through my indifference. I believe if I don’t like how others are trying to solve the problem, then I should offer other solutions. I believe in researching both sides of an issue before making a decision. I have done so, and I have made my decision based on the options I see before me. Because watching an episode of Housewives while hoping this wagon drives by quickly and quietly and not disturb my life too terribly is not an option. It’s actually inhumane.