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Last Thursday, when Kony 2012 leader Jason Russell was arrested by San Diego police after running around his neighborhood naked and pounding the street in an incoherent rage, I couldn’t help but infer that the earthquake of his viral campaign to nab former Ugandan war lord Joseph Kony was finally rattling him. It seems he could no longer elude the tremors of Mother Theresa spinning in her grave. Russell is the co-founder of the Invisible Children, a non-profit organization set up to bring awareness to the Lords Resistance Army in Central Africa and its leader, Joseph Kony. In March of 2012, Russell, a theater director, delivered a 30 minute video for YouTube that contained a rather simple campaign--make Joseph Kony famous. Russell figured if enough people became enlightened to the war crimes of Kony, the more the US government--and even the international government--would perk up their ears and be persuaded into joining their mission to snatch Kony and bring him to the International Crimes Court. More than 30 million people viewed the video, and soon took to Facebook and Twitter to spread the word on Joseph Kony.
While Jason Russell should be accredited for his humanitarian work in Africa since 2004, his Kony 2012 campaign is a pneumonia of ignorance. Nothing is more harrowing than someone handling a gun without the presence of mind to know how to shoot it. Joseph Kony is the number one most wanted criminal in the world, and his resume reeks of the blood and torture of the innocent women and children of Uganda, but Joseph Kony hasn’t been in Africa since 2006. If Russell is concerned about the livelihood of the people of Uganda, start with healing them. There are currently 3,000 children in the impoverished region with a mysterious disease known as nodding syndrome. Named after its seizure-like episodes of head nodding, the disease affects children between ages 5 and 15, and has killed more than 200 children in Uganda in the past three years. Thousands of more children in South Sudan also suffer from the disease. In a region where nearly 40-percent of the population survive on $1.25 and only has 8 physicians per 100,000 people, hunting a warlord without volunteering to help get him seems imprudent. Russell has formed an army of rudderless slacktivists who feel they are contributing to a cause by wearing a T-shirt, hanging a poster or bugging Lady Gaga to help spread the Kony 2012 brand. For who? For what?
Activism is a full time job that comes with little to no pageantry. You would recognize the faces of Justin Bieber, Lindsay Lohan or Prince, before you would know who Angela Davis is, or who Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Theresa were. Making a difference doesn’t involve an over-produced and egocentric video of your mission. It takes action, only. The dispute with the supporters of Kony 2012 is that you would be hard-pressed to find many of them in their local soup kitchens feeding the homeless. Many of them weren’t standing next to George Clooney when he was arrested Friday for protesting against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s blocking of food and aid from entering the Nuba Mountains in the county’s border region with South Sudan. Klooney 2012? Activism is about getting into the community and helping to find ways to make life a better journey for everyone to travel through. You can’t help from Facebook. You can’t help from Twitter. If you are not willing to strap on a Kevlar, pick up an M-16, and aid a peace keeping mission anywhere in the world, how can you sincerely help capture a fugitive warlord from behind an Ipad on Google Earth? The Kony 2012 movement is too big of a leap for people not properly informed on how to make an honest and valid change. Taking leaps is all about having your feet under you, first. Crawling before you walk, because baby steps are the only way to earn those leaps. Start with a Pillow Pet drive for the sick children of Children’s Hospital. Get involved in an organization that funds sports programs for inner city youth. Capturing one warlord simply just opens the door for the next warlord. It’s a never-ending, vicious cycle. They are a disease that no amount of support or awareness can cure. For Jason Russell, the real change he can make has to start with himself. If the United States government finally found a dollar to pay him attention, now, in lieu of his recent lewd and mental breakdown, that care fund is undoubtedly empty. It seems the pressure of maintaining a social media campaign--and the insane amount of notoriety--has caused Jason Russell to crack. Mahatma Gandhi starved himself as a protest against the tyranny of the British supremacists. By doing so, he forced the hand of the British powers of his time. With Gandhi’s large following, and fear of repercussions that would be spawned from his untimely death, the British could not afford to let Gandhi starve himself to death. They gave in. How’s that for awareness?
Jason Russell, on the other hand, hangs protest signs and sells bracelets.