In 2005 and 2006, I frequently struggled through the troubling things I learned about the kidnappings and child soldiers in Uganda by envisioning my lifelong hero Batman systematically dismantling the factors that allowed Joseph Kony and the Lords Resistance Army to commit international criminal acts that still horrify my imagination. For perhaps the first time in my life, my mind conceived of atrocities and criminals that couldn’t be banished back into the dark with bravery and batarangs.
But when I went to Uganda in 2006, the Ugandan military soldiers I spoke with already referred to Kony’s forces as having been crippled. Mere “thugs,” they said. I’m 100% behind anyone trying to help Africans, but I’ve been somewhat suspicious of Invisible Children’s actions and finances for years. This new campaign really rubs me the wrong way. It feels “on message” for keeping the organization funded, but that message is six years out of date regarding the truth.
I want Joseph Kony brought before an international crimes court, and have dreamed of that day for seven years. That’s why I was so pleased that President Obama sent one hundred special forces advisors to help assist leaders on the ground in bringing about his capture.
During and since my visit to Africa, my idea of what Batman could achieve in solving the problems facing everyday Ugandans radically changed. Every basic tool in his arsenal—Fear, Money, Invisibility, and Violence—would be rendered useless for affecting long-term change. In my little imaginary story of Batman in Africa, Bruce Wayne finally left his name and former mission behind and became a teacher in Bombo. I often think I should have done the same.
(I realize this story is simplistic as well, and that fixating on how Batman would solve a problem is more a dysfunction of my childhood than a method of actually reaching solutions, but I figure sharing it might be useful for catching the attention of my fellow nerds out here.)
Not for nothing, but I have had some experience with young, charismatic dudes leading youth organizations to donate money to them under the banner of global aid, and while they tended to do some good, they also constantly simplified issues and made ridiculous separatist arguments. By all means, educate yourself about what Joseph Kony did, and the prior factors in Uganda that led to the formation of the LRA. But my advice is to donate your time and money to established charities with less overhead and more infrastructure.
More information at the following links:
Final note: Please don’t be impressed by my brief visit to Kenya and Uganda. I spent every dime I had (and more) to go there, money that would’ve been better spent putting the children I would eventually come to cherish through school. While I credit that trip with my “liberal awakening,” had I been better educated beforehand, I could’ve skipped the emotional breakthrough and actually helped change a few dozen lives for the better.