Thursday, March 8, 2012

Kony 2012 and Our Amazing Youth

Most of you are probably already aware of Kony 2012. If you've spent any time on-line and on social networking sites in the past few days, you've been inundated with pleas to watch and share the Kony 2012 video, as well as commentaries on why you shouldn't, such as this, and this.

Whether or not you agree that dealing with Jospeh Kony is something that we in the West should be addressing, or can actually do anything about, one thing is clear. North American young people are reacting to the crimes of Kony with outrage and passion. They want to do something. They need to do something. They care. And this makes me proud. For a generation that is routinely characterized as indulged and self-focused, interested only in the latest fashions, entertainment and themselves, they are proving to be refreshingly open to the troubles outside their own little worlds, and willing to do what they can to help.

Many of the young people I know who are responding to the call to help stop Joseph Kony are already active helpers in their own communities. They have the energy, stamina and heart to do what is needed, and when they see the needs around them, they react. I have to admit, some of the reaction against the Kony 2012 movement has sounded distressingly like world-worn adults, shaking their heads at the idealism and naivety of young people who have yet to become jaded and discouraged by the sheer size of the issues involved, the duplicity of government officials, and the fact that this action is unlikely to completely solve the problems in the areas involved.

I hear a dull, cold note of discouragement trickling down, and I don't like it. You won't be able to solve the problems. You can't trust these guys, anyway. What about this, and that, and those things, and what these people say? Who's going to do this, carry that, pay for these, fix it all? You can't do it, they can't do it, no one can do it. Don't even try.

Invisible Children, the organization responsible for the Kony 2012 video and campaign, has written a response to their critics. It is worth checking out.

When I watched the Kony 2012 video with my daughter, we cried. Not because we are weak or easily fooled, or sentimental. It is not sentimental to weep for children who are brutally abused, murderously orphaned, used as sex-slaves and child soldiers. It is compassionate. It is human and at the same time, it is divine. We need to be proud that we have raised a generation of young people who care so deeply. We need to encourage them to read and listen to everything they can on the subject of Jospeh Kony and the Invisible Children organization, including the critics. We need to teach them to think critically, with intelligence and thoroughness, but without cynicism and scorn. If we don't think that Kony 2012 is an appropriate means of helping, we need to offer alternative solutions, so that the energy, passion and strength that our young people bring to the table will not be lost in a fog of discouragement.

Last week in our college Humanities class, we watched a BBC documentary called How Facebook Changed the World - The Arab Spring. It documented the incredible story of how a new generation of Arab citizens used social networking to try to bring down the tyrannical dictators that ruled their countries. We saw that the energy, courage and strength of people can make a difference, can accomplish what was once considered the impossible. I have to admit, I cried while watching it. I was especially moved by their successes. So much hope. So many possibilities. Such courage.

I want to encourage our young people to study the issues, think about the consequences of action, to count the cost, to pray for guidance, to be wise and thoughtful. And I want to do it in a way that leaves no doubt that I are so very, very proud.

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