I was at the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia a couple weeks ago, and while in the section of the museum dedicated to communism, dictatorships and other international atrocities, the face of one Joseph Kony stared back at me from the display of war criminals currently at large.
Wasn't that the guy from the documentary everyone freaked out about junior year?, I remember thinking.
I remembered a viral video circulating Facebook about this bad African dude who was killing people. I remember never watching the video, but being upset about it, because that's the proper human response to atrocity. There was a big hoorah, and we moved on.
No one told us that the abduction rate by Kony's army rose sharply after the video's release. No one's gotten mad about it since then. We were complicit in making the video famous, but beyond that we were silent.
Remember #BringBackOurGirls a couple years ago? It was a viral hashtag. Those who clicked on it learned the story of the nearly 300 Nigerian girls kidnapped from their school by Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria. I remember bowing my head in prayer and tweeting the hashtag. And moving on with my life.
Guess what? 230 of those girls are still missing, two and a half years later.
Somebody profited from the viral video. Michelle Obama got good PR for holding a #BringBackOurGirls sign with a concerned look on her face. A number of other celebrities (Kim Kardashian, P. Diddy, Angelina Jolie, etc.) did, too. And then we moved on.
We're engaging in what many refer to as "slacktivism." Sure, we hear atrocities and get emotional, but from behind our phone screens, are we really doing anything by sharing a video or contributing to a hashtag's virality?
Yeah, we're raising awareness, but knowing is half the battle, because we aren't the only ones staying silent. Our government is, too.
The "Actions" section of the website dedicated to the Bring Back Our Girls movement provides contact information for the White House as well as Senators, Congressmen and the State Department. We can talk to our politicians and let them know that something must be done to ensure these girls are rescued.
With regards to Joseph Kony, the government is taking action. Though special ops has been largely unsuccessful in locating the man responsible for the deaths and kidnappings of over 100,000, there have been very recent attempts to disrupt this business side of the operation.
In the future, let's avoid falling victim to slacktivism. When there is an opportunity to use or words in a meaningful way, let's seize that opportunity.