Those phrases started popping up all over my computer earlier this week. My twitter and Facebook feeds were inundated with pleas that I didn’t understand. Who the hell is Kony and what the [toe jam] did I care? At first, I thought it was a joke. Some republican made up by Jon Stewart or Steven Colbert to challenge Mitt Romney for the nomination. Then suddenly, it got real.
I clicked on a tweet that led to this video.
Pretty powerful stuff. All that video needed was a puppy in a pound and it would have officially pulled on every available heart string I had. I was in. I retweeted the video and thought about giving my time to the cause (no donation because I didn’t want to wear one of those lame bracelets.) Then, the opposition started pouring in. Articles questioning the validity of the cause, here, and the organization running it, here. The article bashing Invisible Children, the organization behind the video, was promptly responded to in this statement. But the question of will arresting Kony change anything still hangs in the air.
When I was in junior high, in 1989, experiencing a mild version of integration backlash, I wondered why the civil rights movement stopped after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Why couldn’t this structure of people built over a decade carry on without one person? My question was answered in 2002 when Paul Wellstone was killed in a plane crash in Minnesota. Every weekend, I had campaigned with Paul. Going to rallies, making phone calls, and door knocking. I even appeared with him in one of his commercials. The Wellstone movement was going to change things. Then the plane crashed. During the ensuing fallout, I realized how important a leader is. The bubble of hope and possibility we were in burst. It was like everyone was suffocating on what could have been and what we refused to be without him. So yes, taking out the head of a movement can destroy an infrastructure from the inside out.
Is it the same with armies where everyone has power in the shape of a gun? Is Joseph Kony still the figurehead he used to be? How many other Kony like figures will we have to take down before all the people in the world feel safe? I don’t know the answers to any of those questions but I do know we have to try.
I haven’t been a part of any campaign or worked for any political party since a month after that plane crashed. Maybe, just maybe, if those who support warlords saw them disabled one by one they would start to back other causes. Maybe those looking to take their place will find a safer, less destructive way to build power. And maybe, in a generation, no one will have to secretly fight institutionalized oppression because the fight will be all of ours.