Invisible Children

The Invisible Children debates have died down almost as quickly as they started up. A couple of weeks ago was when the hype and hysteria began over the video by Jason Russell, one co-founder of Invisible Children.

Basically, Joseph Kony is a bad guy. That’s really an understatement. He’s a criminal in so many more senses of the word than some critics realize. He doesn’t have too many overdue parking tickets, he probably is on some sort of drug to be doing the things he’s doing but that isn’t why he’s wanted, for possession or distribution of any substance. He is taking children from their homes – young children, probably around 10 or so, most of them – and forcing them not only to leave their homes but to kill their parents, their relatives. To kill, period. A ten year old child with a gun.

Moving away from the individual organization for a moment, can you really comprehend that? Can you imagine a ten year old in the United States being told to shoot their parents or else they themselves would be shot? Let’s go back a little bit and get personal and see if this helps put it into perspective for anyone.

In 2005, I was in fourth and fifth grade. That’s when I was ten years old. If we examine that time in my life, it was right after I moved away from my first elementary school and my father with whom I had lived for the time that both of my parents had lived in Texas. My fourth and fifth grade years were both at South Hi Mount in Fort Worth, where I still consider myself “from” today. Now that I’m actively thinking about it, those two years were probably some of the best of my life. From 2005 when I entered 4th grade to 2007 when I ended 5th grade, I lived with my mom who was stable and her fiance who I adored and while he was not the most affectionate person in the world, was a wonderful man with a career, a home, a boat and a future. To this day I wish that we – my mom and I – were still in that situation, that beautiful but small little home (not house, it was more than any old house on the block) with love, intangible but visible to the home’s inhabitants.

I had the most friends at this point in my life, I think – not necessarily the best friends or even people that I still talk to today, but the most. I knew a lot of people in my school and I liked the teachers and I knew my mom’s friends and coworkers. I had a room that was painted and decorated with posters and furniture that Mike had bought for me. It was all white and fancy – frankly, girlier than my tastes have ever been, but so wonderful and thoughtful and sweet that I didn’t care and I used all of it and the whole time I spent in that house was just … happy.

My fourth grade teacher’s name was Mrs. MacNoughton – and I probably butchered it there. She was a lovely woman with red hair who liked writing and reading. It was in her classroom that I met my two best friends, Wyly and Sonya. Both friendships were and are to this day valuable to me but they fizzled with time or conflicts that were petty. I think it’s in Mrs. MacNoughton’s class that I learned to love writing and reading the way I do today. At SHM, we had this test system called “AR” or Accelerated Reading. In a nutshell, it was a program devised by someone to encourage kids to read. You would read a book in the elementary school’s library and take a brief quiz online to test your knowledge of the book. Depending on your grade, you got or did not get the assigned “AR” points the book was worth – bigger books were, of course, more points. Wyly and I were always competing for the title of most AR points. Thinking back, it’s surprising I can’t remember who won at the end of the year.

My fifth grade teacher was Mrs. Carsey and I loved her more than words can say. She had a scientific interest which I still have not completely picked up but she also adored reading and enriching one’s education in or out of the classroom – for the sake of education, not ‘just because you have to.’ She always wanted to find things that we liked or that interested us or that would engage us in one way or another.

Maybe the best thing about those years was the Fort Worth After School program I attended. It was FWAS for short – with an ‘ah’ as in awful instead of the harsh A sound from ‘after’ – and so many hours were spent engaged in activities with FWAS. We did so many things. The favorite was the 5Ks that we ran. The Squirrel Run. Just … too much to write about, and frankly I’m getting upset at the reminiscing I’m doing to myself for a simple blog post.

So.

The idea is that … The little girl I was back then, using my mom’s Walkman to listen to Green Day as my best friend and I shared the headphones while we walked around the school … That little girl would not have known what to make of it if she were handed a gun and was told to shoot her mother.

No. Invisible Children is not a flawless organization. No charity is perfect. The ONLY reason that Invisible Children is receiving as much criticism as they are is because they have actually accomplished their goal of getting their message across.

I guess this bothers me so much because the people that are criticizing Invisible Children for their flaws don’t seem to care very much about the CAUSE that IC is fighting for. It is easy to write about someone else’s flaws. It is easy, for example, to say that Ptolemy was a fucking moron and how could he obviously miss the details that we now know to be true. But it is not easy to go through what these people go through, to go through the trial and error of finding out what they believe to be correct. Ptolemy may have been wrong. But he put effort into the things he believed. He spent time researching and making predictions and conclusions based on all that he had access to. He CARED about his CAUSE.

And believe it or not, Invisible Children has made a DIFFERENCE. They have built schools, radio towers, et cetera in Uganda. But critics don’t seem to realize that. But what they also fail to recognize is that Invisible Children has done something that no other organization has done before to any degree of success that IC has managed. Invisible Children is an organization started by three college students that has successfully intrigued the interest of over 30 million people. Most of these are people that rarely even acknowledge activity in any country besides their own; that they exist is probably a fact they are only aware of because of school.

Critics: Don’t you care about that? Do you not see the impact that it’s made? They’re not perfect; neither was United Way, their percentage of profit that went into their causes was in the single-digits when they were busted. But look at how many people CARE about the cause at hand. Look at what the people that are posting about Invisible Children are USUALLY doing. Does that mean nothing to you?

Oh, and one more thing … the other argument is that Joseph Kony is out of Uganda.

Yeah, that’s great, and that’s even true, since 2006. Six years out of Uganda.

Does that mean it’s okay that he’s somewhere else? LOTS of evidence that backs up that he is no longer active in Uganda. Little to no evidence that I’ve seen in the weeks of hysteria for or against Invisible Children in regards to whether or not he’s still doing the same things that IC talks about, but elsewhere. Why is THAT okay? Why is THAT reason to pin the blame on Invisible Children?

Again: No, they aren’t perfect. But they have sure as hell raised awareness.

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