A little boy sleeping soundly in his bed is roused from his sleep by an unseen intruder. A rough, calloused hand reaches from the darkness and drags the boy screaming out of the safety of his dreams.
A few moments later that boy or another just like him is shown with a weapon of war slung over his shoulder, a sneer across his lips as he looks at the camera. These children are victims of an ongoing campaign of terror that has spanned decades in Central Africa.
I, like millions of others, had never heard the name Joseph Kony until this past week. And now I, like millions of others, have heard and seen of his atrocities. Invisible Children has put out a 30-minute video to make people aware of the crimes against humanity that Kony and his “rebels” have committed.
Recently, Invisible Children has come under fire for allegations of having a pro-war agenda in Uganda and for how they handle some of their finances. You can read their response to these allegations.
Whether you see this cause as worthy of your time or whether this particular organization is on the up-and-up is not what I’d like to focus on here. Those topics can be debated by someone else at another time. I would like to highlight two things that I absolutely love about "Kony 2012."
Social media at its best
We live in a rapidly evolving world and it is shrinking by the second. In less than a week’s time, this viral video has been seen by almost 40 million people worldwide and that number will probably be too low when you read this (Editor's note: the number was 72 million on Sunday, two days after Smith wrote this).
Forty million people reached in just days!
Whether you like it or not--or understand it or not--we are a global village. Nothing highlights that more than social media. Whether its "Kony 2012" or the people’s uprising in the Middle East, social media is more than just silly Facebook posts or tweeting about what I had for lunch (both of which I do). It can and will change the course of human history if used correctly.
Remember when the Berlin wall fell? I do. I was an eighth grader at Wentzville Middle school. I remember watching with eyes wide as a nation torn apart during war was being brought back together under the weight of the international community. I can still see people standing atop a wall with sledge hammers. They hammered that wall with the pent-up rage of decades of oppression. The hugs and tears of a people being reunited reverberated all over this planet and it was then that I realized that we are a family of humanity.
Now take that moment and add in the instantaneous capabilities of social media and the Internet. That’s what we’ve seen with this "Kony 2012" movement. A crime being committed against our little brothers and sisters half a world away,and in mere minutes we were are given a task and the means to carry it out.
I love that we are a shrinking global family. I love that my actions here can affect lives all over the world.
Children understand their roles
Teens get a bad rap for things deserved and undeserved. Yes they can be frustrating; yes they can be lazy, condescending, untrustworthy, unruly, dishonest. Wait. Are we still talking about teens or politicians? Just kidding. The problem is, is that these aren’t traits of teens. They are traits of humans, period. It’s just that we adults get reminded of what we were by our teens and we can’t stand that.
So like every generation, teens get labeled and are expected to do very little until after college. Then something comes along and you see the power that your teen actually has in making a difference.
"Kony 2012" has shown you that teens have a strong desire and will to change this place for the better. An entire campaign aimed at this new generation may literally help turn central Africa around this year. An entire viral campaign aimed at your students to help change the lives of tens of thousands of people you’ll never meet. That’s incredibly amazing and insightful. When an organization understands the power of Generation Y, they change things almost instantly.
Think back to the last election.
Barak Obama was a little known politician out of Illinois. With a brilliant plan in place they unleashed the power of Gen Y. They spoke to them in the language and media that they understood. And Gen Y changed the political landscape, if only for a time.
You can debate the merits of this current administration, but what you cannot debate is the sense of responsibility that your teens and their generation has to the world. When properly motivated, your student turns into Captain Planet, a force to be reckoned with!
Don’t stifle that sense of urgency. Instead help guide them to a healthy and reasonable response to atrocities or causes around our planet. Allow your student to see and experience that they can make our world a better place. Walk along side with them and see just how different this generation is than any other we’ve ever seen.
The images of children fighting in a war moved me to tears. Seeing the disfigured faces and lives caused by Joseph Kony stirred a feeling close to hatred deep inside me. I pray that justice comes to him and swiftly. I pray for the families ripped apart by this madman. I pray for the millions of young people working, donating, calling, and writing to stop him.