KONY 2012 and the Insurgency of Love

Congolese Refugees Western Uganda | Photo by TKnoxB http://www.flickr.com/photos/tkb/17063791/

So I’m a bit torn…

The a 30-minute video from Invisible Children started rapidly making it’s way around the web on Wednesday morning.

As of mid-Wednesday morning it had 6.8 million views on Vimeo and 4.2 million on YouTube. The latest stat I heard on Thursday is the video’s been viewed close to 40 million times now.

I think it’s safe to say “It’s gone viral.”

Immediately after I saw it, I shared it on each of my networks – and was prepared to share it here on my blog Monday morning (as an added reminded for folks to watch it if they haven’t already).

The video tells a horrible story. A story that has gripped me since I first heard about it in 2006.

A story that before Wednesday, many were still unaware of – and yet the instant you hear it, it’s almost impossible to not want to rise up and do something.

I was with several friends when I first heard of Joseph Koney in 2005/2006. We watched a full length documentary about the situation on their home movie projector.

I shared that film – Invisible Children: Rough Cut with numerous friends and had banners on my websites and links and information about the cause over the course of several years.

In April of 2006, my friend and I took part in the Global Night Commute, planning to walk 18.3 miles from my place in Waxahachie, to the nearest DART Rail Station (Ledbetter Station).

The Global Night Commute was organized by Invisible Children and was all about getting young people to show solidarity for the “night walkers” – children in Uganda who had to walk several miles from their villages to nearby cities each night, just to stay safe from the attacks by Joseph Kony and the LRA.

My friend and I figured that if these kids could walk several miles each night — the least we could do is walk 18 miles or so to a DART station. From there we would ride the train to meet up with other interested “activists” who would join us in spending the night outdoors, sleeping in a church’s parking lot and soccer field.

We took off around 8 in the morning and walked most of the day before I finally quit after 14.7 miles.

I was definitely gung-ho but a bit ill prepared (HINT: using powder to keep your shorts dry NOT a good idea when walking long distances – whatever I Googled was poorly informed.)

Since then I’ve continued to keep abreast of announcements and such from Invisible Children and have always tried to keep abreast of the issue as it’s come through other sources as well.

So the information shared in this new video this week wasn’t exactly new to me. I was already on board with the cause — stop the violence and help rescue the children.

And I’m certain most people who shared the video felt the same way.

Whether they were hearing it for the first time or the 200th time, they wanted to raise awareness of the issue and encourage those in power to do something.

However, the video brought with it an unexpected controversy.

Several bloggers posted the video on their blogs immediately after it was released and were quickly surprised by the backlash against it. At least a few bloggers pulled the video and related posts shortly afterwards to wait and research the issue.

Apparently the rest of the world didn’t hold Invisible Children (the organization) with the same high regard as I had.

Bloggers raised issues about fundraising, about where the money went, if Kony is even still a viable threat, etc. etc.

And my initial instinct was to come to their defense. My thought was, even if this organization wasn’t 100% perfect, they were obviously raising awareness about an issue that I was fairly passionate about.

But as I hear some of the responses to the video I fear the video could be doing as much harm as it is good.

You should all know by now that I’m never in favor of military action. I typically consider myself a pacifist (even if I’m a poor one).

For several years now I’ve argued against the idea that violence on any level should not beget any level of redemptive violence.

Military action and violence of any sort is the last thing I want to see take place.

(And as the CEO of Invisible Children has said, their goal has been and remains a peaceful solution to this issue).

However, if any video gives any impression that people should demand military action — I think we are headed in the wrong direction.

So now, 36 hours removed from the initial hype, I find myself asking these questions:

How can I criticize military action against any dictator, terrorist, murder or anyone else and still stand in support of a video that has led many to raise their voice in support of military action?

What does it say about me (or us), when a video can inspire us to demand our government to send military troops into another country?

Where does my faith lie if I’m thinking an arrest of Joseph Kony is the solution to the problem?

Am I truly being an Insurgent of Love while spreading these ideas?

What is the proper response when faced with situations like this? What if it were my neighbor? What if it were my family?

Is there really a Third Way or is action or inaction the only option?

Now, truth be told, I didn’t gather that the video was calling for “military action” or a bounty on Joseph Kony’s head. So, if you’re in that same boat — you’re not alone.

I felt like it was calling for the US Government to remain steadfast in their help of the Ugandan government (through advising and technical know-how) to hunt for Kony and to see him brought to trail before the International Court — but even that can bring up unwanted issues and solutions.

As Phil Wilmot shared on Facebook today:

KONY2012 also reveals a lack of sensitivity about how justice is understood in the non-Western world, particularly Northern Uganda where restorative practices like Maro Oput, Kayo Cuk, and Culo Kwor continue to be implemented, even for the most tragic crimes such as murder. Indeed, these traditional practices of paying restitution and healing a broken community are preferred to this day. The vast majority of Northern Ugandans categorically oppose US governmental interference, as well as the Western assumption that “an eye for an eye” is the only virtuous and practical way to justice. Simply look at American prisons and crime trends and you will see that the US has one of the worst justice systems of any nation on this globe. Why must we project our understanding of justice onto a region which, historically, has done much better without the influence of our worldviews?

That being said, regardless of what I saw, interpreted or understood, the video seems to have left others feeling differently.

One of the first rules of communication is that communication only happens when the same message is understood by both the sender and the receiver.

If the message I’ve shared is in anyway understood to promote militarism or additional violence on any level I’ve messed up. I’ve either lost my way or at the very least, miscommunicated.

And for that I apologize.

It appears that I may have given myself over to a single story.

Phil’s post helped remind me that there are alternatives. There are other ways.

There’s always a Third Way.

Just a few months ago, I shared with a church in Wolfe City the power of second chances and the power of forgiveness. I shared how the people in Rwanda have reconciled relationships that were torn apart by war. Friendships made between murderers and the victim’s families.

The power of love has done this — not a police force. Not a military advisory. Not a video calling for government intervention. The power of love did it.

In the midst of hurt, loss and pain we don’t always see these types of solutions — but they’re there.

Phil shares just a few ideas in his note:

Let us turn to the fundamental change-makers of this part of the world, people that toppled well-established regimes by planting trees (Wangari Maathai of Kenya). Let us practice the nonviolent tactics of the Liberian Women who effectively ended the second civil war in their nation. Let us look to the Ugandan NGOs, non-profits, churches, and activist groups such as Action for Change, Alternative to Violence-Centered Organization for Humanity, Refugee Law Project, and The Campus Journal that have put the most risky and powerful foot forward in the pursuit of justice. Our global class privilege and power is silencing the efforts of agencies which actually understand the complicated mess that we have reduced to a single soundbite: “Let’s get Kony.”

So where does that leave me, as an American? It’s an important question. Kony is a tiny branch on an infested tree, but we are at the root. We taxpayers are funding violence and terror (In Uganda, yes, but also across the globe). Our consumption patterns enable rebel forces to do what they do in sub-Saharan Africa. Let us begin with ourselves. Find a socially and environmentally just electronics company when you make your next purchase, or simply don’t make a next purchase. What makes us so entitled that we believe we don’t have to sacrifice something or undergo difficult transformation for these systems of ongoing oppression to change? The blood is on my own hands, and that is where I begin.

Ten to 15 years from now, I hope my boys are going to school and learning about this situation from the viewpoint of history — not as an issue that continues to plague our world.

And as we all look back on it then, I pray that we can say the world did move. The world did take action in 2012.

But not through violence or military action — but through non-violent tactics that brought about change and repentance for all.

Let us be the Insurgency of Love. Let us live the love that we claim to hold deep within us.

Let us seek alternative measures that don’t insight further violence and don’t ignore our own guilt in the violence that has already taken place.

And in the process – may we truly be known as People of The Way.

A few additional links that have been helpful as I’ve processed these ideas:

An email from Dr Adam Branch (HT Ashley Stroud Phillips)

Musa Okwonga’s blog in the Independent (HT Greg Russinger)

Emmanuel’s story from POTSC:

As We Forgive

responding to “kony2012” – joseph kony’s actions are bad, yes. however joseph kony is still a human being–created in the imago dei–whose life is still a life and still has value.

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Jonathan Blundell

I'm a husband, father of three, blogger, podcaster, author and media geek who is hoping to live a simple life and follow The Way.

3 thoughts on “KONY 2012 and the Insurgency of Love”

  1. the whole idea of reconciliation vs. retribution has always blown my mind. i remember a few years ago, when i was part of invisible children’s “vanguard” website, i researched the history and background of the war. one of the topics they tackled was “why aren’t we just killing him?”
    they mentioned the aspect of forgiveness and reconciliation being paramount within the n. ugandan community. it’s so foreign to our focus on justice, but it is what they cling to – at least until the last peace talks fell through in 2008. i remember hearing how ugandans were tired of it all – how they just wanted kony brought to justice. i watched interviews, nodded my head, and proceeded with my involvement.
    i think what you’ve written here sums up my misgivings about kony2012. i’m not disagreeing with ic. i’m not waving a banner against their practices – it’s more pointed inward. if i got all up in arms about people celebrating osama bin ladin’s death last spring, why am i pushing for an african warlord’s punishment? is he beyond grace?
    i don’t know the answer. i’m not sure if it’s the vested interest i have in this topic – the amount of hours i’ve spent and the many, many MANY days i’ve wished to see kony’s picture on the face of my evening news. i still pray for peace. i still pray for kony – i believe {as they mention in the rough cut} this is so much more than what we see physically. this conflict has roots in spiritual practices. so how do i as a christian respond?

    1. I’m with you Elora! As one blogger wrote (and I added in a revised version) “joseph kony’s actions are bad, yes. however joseph kony is still a human being–created in the imago dei–whose life is still a life and still has value.”

      Either Jesus has the whole world in his hands or he doesn’t. Either he loves us all – or he doesn’t. Either we’re called to love our enemies – or we aren’t.

      I still want to see Kony’s practices stopped (and would probably prefer to have him arrested in the process) but I don’t want to see further violence just to hopefully end violence.

      I remember the story of Hitler’s attempted assassination and how it only stoked his passion to an even greater extent. He felt like “God had protected him” and so in his mind it justified his actions even further. With God on his side, certainly he was doing the right thing.

      I have a feeling Kony (at least initially) felt the same way. I pray that he will come to see the error of his ways and find redemption.

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