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This week, my children have received quite an education. I’m not talking math and science classes, or spelling worksheets, literature compositions and social studies reviews, I’m talking REAL LIFE lessons.

By now, four days after Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 campaign was launched through the release of a viral video, it is not surprising to hear (or see) the name Joseph Kony seeping into our daily Facebook posts, tweets, e-mails, dinner conversations, entertainment television, and more. I, myself, interested at the Facebook status updates from friends, celebrities, and even the Southern Jewel Dog Rescue where we adopted Murph, who were posting the video and telling me I must watch it, all day Monday and Tuesday, took 30 minutes at the end of the day on Tuesday to view the video on YouTube. (As of writing this post, the link had 56,647,137 views).

Not sure what to think or believe, like I always do when I have a question about something, I began to roam the Web in search of information. People were confused. Was this a hoax? Was this organization legit? Was Joseph Kony for real?

This was posted on http://www.snopes.com:

  • A group of blond-haired, blue-eyed Southern California surfer boys from advocacy group Invisible Children got more than 30 million people to watch a half-hour video on a 20-year-old conflict in Central Africa—in just three days. But the fallout has been some tough criticism charging that the group is raising awareness about a conflict that has essentially wound down since its height in 2003-4 — and cut corners with the facts to amp up its message. Detractors piled on that Invisible Children spends the bulk of its budget on staff salaries and making films that attract much publicity, but don’t do much to help people on the ground. But in a backlash to the backlash, other Africa experts and human rights advocates say the widespread negativity is unfounded.

Stil confused I went to my recent obsession, The Huffington Post, for some more information. One such post, written yesterday, spoke of the success of the video in getting the message out about the atrocities of the LRA in Uganda, yet there was still many who were concerned with the message that was being sent:

“Musa Okwongo, a commentator for The Independent, took issue with the film’s overly simplistic approach and failure to hold Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni accountable,” the post stated, continuing with … “(Musa Okwongo) writes: ‘Invisible Children asked viewers to seek the engagement of American policymakers and celebrities, but – and this is a major red flag – it didn’t introduce them to the many Northern Ugandans already doing fantastic work both in their local communities and in the diaspora. It didn’t ask its viewers to seek diplomatic pressure on President Museveni’s administration.'”

A friend also sent me a link to this site http://s3.amazonaws.com/www.invisiblechildren.com/critiques.html via Twitter, that provides a statement from Invisible Children, in an attempt to diminish some of the negative rumors being spread about the group, and to explain their intentions when releasing the video. It also provides a copy of the groups finances for those who questioned where any money from the group will be going as a result of this video.

But my biggest understanding of the issue as a whole, came yesterday, when my twin 12-year-olds jumped in the car after school, and the first words out of Max’s mouth were, “Do you know about Joseph Kony?” Interested in the fact that my son had obviously learned about the campaign during school, I was curious to hear what he had to say. So was McKenna. She hadn’t heard of this Kony person or the campaign “To Make him Famous” (in a negative way). Max continued to tell the two of us about the LRA, the Ugandan children, and Jacob, the young Ugandan featured in the IC video (I’m still not sure when he watched the video or where, but it really doesn’t matter. Does it?).

Max was appalled that things like rape, murder and mutilation were happening to kids his age and younger, many times, by kids his age and younger. He was disgusted that children were forced to carry guns, serve in the militia, and sometimes murder members of their own families. “Some of them were even forced to kill their own parents,” he said in disbelief.

Upon returning home, McKenna immediately headed to her computer to watch the video for herself. Later that night a segment on E! reporting on the video, and interviewing the director of the Kony 2012 video, Jason Russell, came on the television. “Isn’t that Jacob?” McKenna asked referring to a photo displayed on the screen of a young African boy, and then began watching the segment. When Kenna and I became briefly distracted and missed part of the interview, we paused the television until we could watch the entire segment uninterrupted.

As we continued our conversation, Max entered the room. “Hey, isn’t that Jacob?” he asked. “Can we watch this?”

I finished my conversation with McKenna, rewound the segment, and we all sat back and watched Russell as he explained the goal behind the creation and release of the video.

“I am not a celebrity, I don’t want that kind of attention. I’m a human being, and that’s what this is about: Human beings waking up to their potential and power around the world and uniting for justice. It’s that simple. That’s what we are about and that’s why I am here,” he said.

Basically, Russell said, the short video could not possibly cover his nine years of research about this ongoing war, and it’s main objective was to bring attention to the issue at hand and to get people thinking, asking questions, researching the grave state of children in Central Africa, and the fear they live with on a daily basis.

When asked by the interviewer about people like Don Cheadle and Cal Pen who are saying to people, “Listen, do your research. Don’t just watch a video and assume this is the truth,” Russell replied, “You have to do your research! Everyone out there has to research (this) in depth — this is a complex war, 26 years over four continents over multi-layers. … The movie is to get you going, ‘What is this?’ ‘What’s going on?'”

And that is exactly what is happening all over the world, and even better, among our children. They are learning that life is very different for other children in other countries. They are learning about how lucky they are to have born in a country like the United States. And they are beginning to learn that it’s important to be aware, to understand the world as a whole, and they are learning that it is possible for them to affect change, even now. Not too bad a lesson to learn in only one week.

Max and McKenna are asking questions? Are you?

Where all this will end? I don’t know, but I will continue to do my research, and continue to talk with my kids about what they are hearing and what they are thinking. And in this day and age, when adults are complaining about disrespectful and disconnected teenagers who care only about themselves and no one else, I think anything that can prove to those naysayers that they are wrong, that our children have a lot more to offer, they just need someone or something to give them a little push every now and then. And this time that push came from a little 30-minute video on YouTube.

**** According to the Invisible Children’s website, the advocacy group “USES FILM, CREATIVITY AND SOCIAL ACTION TO END THE USE OF CHILD SOLDIERS IN JOSEPH KONY’S REBEL WAR AND RESTORE LRA-AFFECTED COMMUNITIES IN CENTRAL AFRICA TO PEACE AND PROSPERITY.” 

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