A donkey, an elephant and a dove. The image that Jason Russell has painted onto the hearts of over 80 million people is creative, it tugs on our heartstrings and it screams at us from every angle, “Unity, justice and peace!” But as I watch the Kony 2012 story develop, I’m not sure if the message is being heard correctly.
A very wise God-Man once said that no prophet is accepted in his own hometown. So what happens when your hometown, the place where everyone knows you, is the Internet? Mr. Russell, a cavalier in digital video production and head of operations for the social justice organization called “Invisible Children,” is the modern day prophet in question. Millions all over the world have seen his video, Kony 2012, which targets the crimes of a Ugandan militia leader. It has connected people, especially young people, from every continent through the use of social media to help in the effort to capture Kony and bring peace to central Africa. For several weeks, Russell has been deemed a hero for his work.
I’m assuming you’ve already seen the original Kony 2012 video, so check out their second video, Part II- Beyond Famous:
Unfortunately, no hero can survive in the souls of his/her fans unless they are properly chiseled by the hammer and spike of suffering. Think about it, Superman was exiled from his home planet; Batman watched a street thug murder his mother and father; even Jesus (my personal hero) was crucified for crimes He didn’t even commit. All heroes either chose to experience suffering first hand, or are forced to experience it through unplanned circumstances that life gives them. In either case, how they respond to the pressure of injustice defines their existence.
Jason Russell is currently formulating his response. Sadly, he does not have the benefit of contemplating his next move in the solace of the Fortress of Solitude, in the Bat Cave with Alfred, or in the Garden of Gethsemane. No, he is being viewed by the browsers of his digital neighbors who are spreading their own propaganda about him based on what little factual information we have on him.
I just happen to be one of these people. In my plight to display what is right, I have contracted an army of 6th graders to compare their own opinions with the facts of Kony 2012. We’ve watched the video. We’ve done the research. And what have we come up with? A donkey, and elephant and a dove.
The donkey is popularly known for two reasons. First, it is humble and hardworking. Second it is traditionally known for being ignorant.
The Kony 2012 video demonstrated Russell’s hard work for social justice. Whether the majority of the “facts” are true or not is not the point here; the fact of the matter is that Russell has, at the very least, humbled the world and awakened many youthful voices to speak out against injustice.
As a result of Russell’s eight years of work in the social justice field, it seems that some of his information might be seriously outdated. Many sources, including both the response video we saw in class and Russell’s video, state that Kony’s presence in Uganda is no longer an issue and that he has moved on to other African nations. If this is true as the video leads us to believe, Russell’s efforts to deploy U.S. troops to Uganda would be worthless unless they are given proper jurisdiction.
Thankfully, the U.N. has already taken charge of the current situation. According to their website, they will be sending a joint task force made up of several central African nations to ensure Kony’s capture. Like an ignorant donkey, they will pay no attention to boarder jurisdictions. Like a stubborn worker, they will stop at nothing to find him.
The elephant has many symbolic meanings throughout the religious world, but scientifically, elephants are also known for two things: their tremendously thick skin and their memory.
Thick skin is traditionally a description for those who never give up. One of the fruits of Russell’s work is that he never has given up in his efforts to protect friends like Jacob from darkness. Another is his ability to transmit the message of peace through audiovisual means. Finally, and most importantly, his “thick skin” has made ours stronger as we attempt to discover the truth behind his message.
This video and all of its effects will be defined by Russell’s reaction to his current mental condition. If he chooses (and is emotionally stable to do so) to become a hero, his work will live for eternity. If he does not, the baton will be passed to the next saint willing to take on the suffering that social justice requires. Perhaps this is the lesson that will be etched into our memories? I can only hope.
A dove is the universal sign of peace and beauty. I believe that Russell’s original motives in creating Kony 2012 were profoundly peaceful and beautiful. His portrayal of the atrocities in Central Africa made over 80 million people feel that they needed to do something to help. While the majority of Kony’s worst might have been done over 10 years ago, the truth is that many unjust people like Kony exist in the world and they keep us from the beautiful peace that we are destined to attain. The gifts of technology, friendship, money, time and talents were meant to be used to create this utopia. Kony 2012 allowed us to live in this loving world for just short of 30 minutes.
This world is full of problems. This assignment was meant to discover some of these problems and how they deal with media coverage. It was designed to identify the facts and opinions of many little people with great technological power and, in doing such research to empower ourselves with the truth. And so, as we come closer to the defining moment of Jason Russell, we wait in hopes that on April 20th, his legacy will be heroic. On that day, we will know whether he is truly a donkey, and elephant or a dove.
Until then, and even after, I’ll be busy teaching my doves.