Updates on “Kony 2012”

I promised to keep you updated on “Kony 2012” developments. In keeping with my word, might i direct you to two conversations i think worth supporting and critically engaging in:

The #Uganda2012 Project:

‘The first part of the project will be a film called #Uganda2012. The film will harness the creative energies of Ugandan filmmakers, photographers, activists, writers, poets and artists to tell the REAL story of  Joseph Kony’s tragic legacy in Northern Uganda and document the the work of many amazing Ugandans who have worked tirelessly to rebuild the region. The film will be released on April 18, two days before the #KONY2012 “Cover the Night” action.’

And this article from Al Jazeera of a screening in Uganda that caused some serious frustration:

   ‘People I spoke to anticipated seeing a video that showed the world the terrible atrocities that they had suffered during the conflict, and the ongoing struggles they still face trying to rebuild their lives after two lost decades.

  The audience was at first puzzled to see the narrative lead by an American man – Jason Russell – and his young son.

  Towards the end of the film, the mood turned more to anger at what many people saw as a foreign, inaccurate account that belittled and commercialised their suffering, as the film promotes Kony bracelets and other fundraising merchandise, with the aim of making Kony infamous.

  One woman I spoke to made the comparison of selling Osama Bin Laden paraphernalia post 9/11 – likely to be highly offensive to many Americans, however well intentioned the campaign behind it.

  The event ended with the angrier members of the audience throwing rocks and shouting abusive criticism, as the rest fled for safety, leaving an abandoned projector, with organisers and the press running for cover until the dust settled.’

You are all most welcome.

Rue the Day: Racial Commentary & The Hunger Games.

Suzanne Collins did not write a book about a dystopian society wherein only white people were foregrounded in a plot to overthrow a totalitarian state. In fact, she pretty explicitly states that the characters of Rue and Thresh, tributes from District 11, have “dark skin.” In this future, there is no buying into the social constructions of race (one thing they did right) but that doesn’t mean she was not making a pointed social comment when she made the little girl, so like the sister for whom Katniss volunteered to potentially die for, black.

When i read The Hunger Games for the first time, i saw Rue as a symbol for interracial empowerment and unity in two key ways: the first were the aforementioned parallels between her and Prim and, consequentially, Katniss’ vision of Rue being one of love unblinded by skin color. The second was her tragic, undue, and horrific death; coming from District 11, which we can guess by the general descriptions of weather and distance is meant to be somewhere in the South (Central Florida? Alabama?) this, to me, read as a pointed comment against segregation and racism across America, but most viscerally apparent in the southern US. Rue was a character who functioned to illustrate the horror of the Games, but also was so beautifully crafted in her intelligence and ability to survive that she still very much existed within the realm of Collins’ fleshed-out, human, believable cast.

Furthermore, i actually always pictured Katniss as being a woman of mixed race/color herself. While i love Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss (and, let us remember, not all racial backgrounds are immediately apparent because race is socially constructed) i had always inferred by Collins’ description of Katniss being a woman of “olive skin” and dark hair that she was a woman of some American Indian ancestry. When she was initially cast, i was a little bit disappointed. However, her performance, as i mentioned earlier today, was so stellar she was such a natural choice for the role.

In fact, if you look closely at the demographic breakdown of the residents of District 12, you’ll notice all the people of more privilege are described as being “fair.” Peeta, who comes from one of the town dwellers, has blonde hair and a pale complexion, much like Katniss’ mother who was a woman of more status prior to marrying Katniss’ dark-haired father. For these loose (but pointed) allusions to a potentially racially-driven class divide that Collins was using to deepen the commentary. While i was sad to, in some way, lose this with Lawrence’s casting, i recognize that Collins was instrumental in choosing her and that the references to Katniss as at least partially American Indian are, after all, very scant. And, may i reiterate: Lawrence herself could very well have American Indian ancestry, because race inherently by its nature of being socially constructed, confines our perception of what “American Indian” or “white” look like in ways that are often not applicable to the masses labeled with such terms.

But still. The point remains: the people who are tweeting that they were “disappointed” that a black girl was cast as Rue is, frankly, disgusting. To express such bigoted and racist views is so contrary to these subtle, poignant commentaries Collins interlaced with her broader statement against consumerism, capitalism, and the military-industrial complex. And clearly, these people didn’t read the books with much care. These tweets and opinions represent everything the Capitol stands for: a place of discrimination, exploitation, and unmitigated privilege at the expense of mass groups of oppressed people. I normally try to stray away from going preach-y on other fans, but the popularity of these horrible, prejudiced views is hurtful, frustrating, and SO NOT THE POINT OF THE STORY COLLINS CRAFTED.

The Hunger Games, at its core, is a book about overcoming adversity in the face of odds that are most certainly not in your favor. A struggle not unlike that faced by all oppressed groups in this country. I think we all do remember this, as fans of the story and as human beings.

current jam: ‘abraham’s daughter’ arcade fire

best thing: the hunger games soundtrack.

*I know this is double-posting in one day, which breaks all conventional blogging rules. But, per request (thanks, Gabs!) and per my own interest in the matter, i wanted to write about this while it was still fresh on my mind. Thanks for sticking with me, friends!

Rachel Corrie: A Day of Remembrance.

Today, March 16th, marks the ninth anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie.

Though perhaps one of the most controversial activists, martyrs, and political figures of the 21st Century so far, I have nurtured a complex admiration and understanding of Rachel Corrie. It’s no secret that her cause – the Palestinian/Israeli conflict – is drenched in complicated and politically charged melodrama (to put it, well, extremely mildly). As i have said before, this is not an issue i feel informed enough to make a public stance on; and it is for this very reason i choose to remember Rachel Corrie on this day rather, than to make a public claim for either side of the issue. The truth resists simplicity, and though Rachel Corrie herself was a woman representing one very prominent and subjective side to the Arab/Israeli conflict, she herself embodied this idea with remarkable intricacy.

I first came into knowing about Rachel Corrie in the fall after my first trip to Uganda. Whilst browsing the Dramatist website for new plays, i stumbled across this work for a one-woman show, entitled: My Name is Rachel Corrie. It intrigued me, and, more to the point at the time, the original production had been directed by Alan Rickman. Naturally, within a month it was in my possession.

Within the hour it took me to read it i was moved to my core. The play, which is based on her writings mostly as a young woman in her late teens and early twenties, is a masterpiece. More than its literary value, however, were the words of Rachel as parallel to emotions i was unpacking around activism and nonviolence at the time myself. There were the obvious, growing-out-of-the-guarded-castle similarities in her global-citizen awakening – but, more unnervingly, there were the frank parallels in our mutual taste for certain brands of pens or intricately papering our bedroom walls with feminist art. Here was a woman painted in word who was, to paraphrase Pablo Picasso, a lie by which i was seeing truth. A young woman who had died protesting a bulldozer’s track – protesting an action she saw rife with injustice.

It terrified me. And it was an immense relief.

In an email she wrote to her mother, she expressed something i had wanted to articulate for months, but had not possessed the words;

“I know I scare you, but I want to write and I want to see. and what would I write about if I stayed within the doll’s house, the flower-world I grew up in? I love you, but I’m growing out of what you gave me … let me fight my monsters. I love you. You made me. You made me.” 

For reasons i am still unable to articulate today, this sits with me. Still. I cannot read her emails or the play without feeling so despairingly sad for a woman with so much life ahead of her and so terrified for the machine of injustice that consumes such lights in the world.

I don’t mean to be a mega-downer on this Friday, a day meant for jubilation for an approaching weekend (even if Cousin Violet doesn’t know what a ‘week-end’ is) and spring breaks, but i think the fact that a day of memoriam exists for her for a reason. And in my own corner of the universe, i wanted to honor those reasons. She was resilient, funny, brilliant, and committed. She gave her life in the name of justice, and she never set out to be any kind of hero. She sought freedom, and while this is a day that honors one American, she is a symbol to honor the thousands of Palestinians and Israelis who have died at the expense of violence. A reminder to us all.

(read more of Rachel’s emails here)

current jam: still ‘vienna’ by billy joel.

Even the Darkest Night Will End and the Sun Will Rise: Les Misérables.

Okay, friends. The Kony 2012 conversation is, by no stretch of the sub-cranium, ceasing.* While the internet-fad-ness of it may dissipate, i am making this public pledge to you here and now to do my best to keep you informed of updates i think pertinent. I love Uganda with all of my being, and i sincerely hope our discourse is not an end.

But, in lieu of the enormous amounts of literature i’ve been consuming and small amounts of it i’ve been outputting, i did not post something that i intended to last Thursday afternoon. For it was last Wednesday night that i treated myself to a night at the theatre; as mentioned last week, a touring Broadway company production of my absolute-until-death-do-we-part-favorite musical of all-time-until-oblivion, Les Misérables, was in town. And while initially i was invited to go with some friends, work schedules got all mixed-up and no one was able to go with me. Undeterred and unwilling to miss a chance to see a show i hadn’t experience live since i was nine years old, i booked a ticket. By myself. In Connecticut.

Understandably, last week i didn’t want to interrupt the flow of our conversation on Kony with chatter about musicals and mastra-dates,** but … it’s midterms. I’m exhausted and i just want to talk about escapism and theatre and frivolity right now.

Going to the theatre alone was certainly full of firsts but, thankfully, one without hiccups. Parking free and well-lit, they hadn’t misplaced my tickets, and there were no extraordinarily tall folk occupying the seat directly in front of me. I arrived almost an hour before the show started, being somewhat of a compulsive on-time-type-a-lady, so i spent the better part of it wandering around the Bushnell Theatre in downtown Hartford.

Outside the Bushnell Theatre!

And lemme tell ya, the place is swank. I’ve seen some lovely theatres in my day, but this one was a diva among the stars in your multitude. When i took my seat, found in the second-to-last-row of the balcony, i found myself in awe of the building itself. I always love it when theatres have character; the homes i made in the blackbox and stadium-seating style performance areas in high school epitomized “character.” They were endearing and quirky and drenched in histories of dark one-acts so obscure Edward Albee himself would be impressed – or aligned with the memories of so many to-be-giants having sung their hearts out on that very stage long before.

This theatre, though, was a character of her own. The elaborate décor along the walls and ceiling made my neck hurt from gazing. It was like sitting inside an enormous, intricately painted jewelry box. I felt small and insignificant – that is, until the curtain rose and i was one with the gods (and heaven is near (am i pushing this references too far? (impossible!))).

as close-up as i could get from the edge of the balcony!

after the show.

 Les Misérables is, at its core, a show about resilient faith in the face of a bleak and unforgiving world – and while the stories of such unyielding belief in goodness and the light move me to unladylike levels of sobbing-my-eyeballs-out-dom, that bleak and unforgiving world paints the story in such artistically realistic hues. And the re-staging of the performance is pure theatrical brilliance, conveying with the dressings of the show such contrast. The vivacity of the score by Boubil and Schoenberg have never ever been so beautifully matched by the set, costumes, and aesthetic of the piece. Through incorporating elements of Victor Hugo’s original paintings into projection-driven set backgrounds and blocking, the story takes on a new dimension in its visual impact. The profundity of Gavroche’s bravery – and tragedy – are deepened in the newly-conceptualized barricades scene.

And this hardly even touches on the extraordinary talents of the cast; Enjorlas’ voice was so divine i scarcely believed him to be human (though his curly blonde locks’ real-ness convinced me well enough to not suspect alien vocal invasion). Eponine and Fantine were pitch-perfect in their character choices, singing abilities, and gut-wrenching acting. Grantaire made me hate the students’ folly – and Marius made me understand why Enjorlas was a man worth dying beside.

But most of all, there was Jean Valjean.

Throughout the whole of my life – even longer than Harry Potter – this musical has been with me. And in my life there are so many questions that somehow seem wrong  i have empathized with different characters most deeply in different time. In some ways, it has always been Javert; the tragic, misguided and broken villains always woo me in ways that make me question my neurotic tendencies when cast in alternate lights. When i first flattered myself to think i was in love, it was Éponine; when i was seven and didn’t quite grasp the concept of the show, i loved the Thénadiers more than anything. And as i grow and change and come to know each character differently, i don’t relinquish any love i had for the others – but it does change.

And this show, there was not one, but two people with whom i felt like the earth moved in a way that made our consciousnesses parallel; Jean Valjean, portrayed perfectly by J. Mark McVey, and Enjorlas, played by Jeremy Hays. With Enjorlas, it makes perfect chronological sense: he is a passionate, somewhat zealous, convinced student who sees only the quest. I won’t be so bold and self-congratualting to say we have much in common, but the student-martyr complex is certainly something I empathize with (on a perhaps more muted level). This Friday, as it so happens, is Rachel Corrie day, and if you’ve been with me since the start of my blogging endeavors, you might recall that she is one of my beloved – if not more complicated – heroes.

But Valjean. Valjean was just love.

Which, at the end of the day you’re another day older, is what the show is all about. Love, transcending all adversity, all misery, all pain.

So as for the mastra-date? Yeah, totally worth it. While i may have unnerved my theatre-attending neighbors with my blubbering and program-clutching, it was a surprisingly transcendent and beautiful experience to go.

And i would not have missed this show for anything in the world, weird looks for solitude included.

current jam: thisthisthisthis.

best thing in my life right now: spring break is so freaking close it is tantalizing.

*In fact, i just made a video blog furthering the conversation if you care to have a look.

**mastra-datenoun; to take oneself out on activities usually appropriated for couples to engage in, such as going to the movies, eating  fancy dinner, or sitting alone in the tippy-top of the balcony bewailing Gavroche and clutching onto a bag of tissues like your life depends on it. Austinian root, of the roommate genus.

The Children are Not Invisible: PART II.

I would like to begin by thanking everyone who has commented or emailed or otherwise communicated with me on my blog yesterday. Your insights, critiques, and kind words are treasured in helping me grow and reaffirming of the very ideas behind this movement: that we, as a global community, can begin to engage in a discourse over human rights violations across the world. In lieu of such comments, i want to address a few things that have been said from a variety of people as something of an addendum to yesterday’s blog.

First: I AM NOT AN EXPERT. If that is how i came off, i apologize, for i in no way think of myself as someone whose opinion is any better than anyone else’s. Yes, i have lived very briefly (10 weeks this past summer, for new friends) in Uganda, and yes, nonviolent conflict resolution is a path i treasure and value above all others, but this only gives credence to me standing on a soapbox so long as we all know i’m just spouting my opinion, not universal truth or the ultimate end of the conversation.

And while i like to think i’m informed and passionate, i will never ever claim to be able to “speak for Uganda.” That, in and of itself, is too broad to even turn to a Ugandan person to answer (it’s like asking me “What is like being female in North America?” I can only answer to my personal experience, not the transcendent unique feeling every single woman has on the continent). Instead, might i direct you to some other incredible Ugandan leaders and capacity-building heroes that are good places to begin deepening our understanding of the complexity of the ramifications of this conflict together.

So, thank you for your questions – i will do my best, but often will try to direct you to other sources that i feel might better answer the dilemma.

This brings me to my second contention: in standing against Kony 2012, i am not standing against the conversation that has started. In fact, i am in full support of such a conversation. I appreciate that the Kony 2012 video has gone viral – because it also means critique of it has too, and this tells me that people are not content with just watching a 27 minute video to consider themselves educated on a global issue. We’re talking, you and i, right now, using one of the most frightening and awesome weapons the world has today: the internet. Invisible Children’s model of utilizing social media to instigate these conversations is brilliant, and i am so glad to see that this tool is being used to tell multiple sides of the story.

And, ultimately, this is what i care about. Yeah, i have some qualms with IC. But i have tried to engage myself critically and with an open mind in the discourse of the Northern Uganda conflict since i was fourteen. At risk of sounding self-congratulatory (which, again, is not my intent): i was often disillusioned by how little my peers knew then about a war where people our age were the primary victims. My sophomore year in high school, i was the Vice Principal of nothing less than the Invisible Children chapter at my school, because they cared. They understood why i, as just a teenager, wanted to be involved in a movement and conversation that concerned something far greater than myself and, on the surface, foreign to the world i knew. They got this, because they wanted people my age to care – and i would say, here and now, they’ve done a pretty good job in starting this conversation among many of my peers. I will never forget this, nor will i discredit or debase an entire organization based on some disagreements over their presentation or policy. There is no such thing as a perfect NGO. This doesn’t mean i don’t stand by my criticisms; my opinion is no different today than yesterday, but in much the same way i am asking all of us (myself included) to imagine complexly, i have a complex opinion on a large, multi-faceted body of people and ideas.

Ultimately, what i wanted to express yesterday and intend to here today is this: don’t stop at the IC videos; they have done a superb job at getting the conversation started among their target group which is, in their own words “Western youth.” I know, from your comments and queries, that many of you were really first exposed to these tensions and the crimes of Kony (etc) in the last week from this video. Thank you for caring enough to watch it – and thank you for also wanting to dig deeper and learn more. Apathy will be the destruction of the human race, but this kind of dialogue makes me hopeful this end isn’t as fast-approaching as i once thought.


This is not an issue that solely concerns Western youth. Nor is Kony a threat who sprung up yesterday in terms of international action or conversation. My concern with ALL of the hype around this on the internet at present – criticism included – is that this is turning into an internet fad. That, this time in two weeks, when the facebook statuses and tweets are lying in the archives of our social media-driven output, the conversation will fizzle out. In the same way, it worries me that there is a mentality that once Kony is captured, the war’s ramifications will largely come to an end.

We cannot let this craze be the end of the conversation, in the same way that we cannot think capturing Kony will end a system of inequality, poverty, and injustice. As John Green says, “the truth resists simplicity.” For some of us, as an internet-driven collective, this is a beginning in engaging in real-life conversations about American privilege, distributions of wealth, war, reactions to conflict, and governmental roles in peace efforts. For some of us still this can be a frustrating, hands-thrown-in-the-air “of COURSE!” moment wherein we express that this conflict is much bigger and much deeper than one man. All sides are needed in this conversation as we embark together, moving forward to build tomorrow.

And, while i think it goes without saying, i want to add that no conversation when grappling with trauma and hope of this magnitude and complexity is easy. But we should all do well to remember that the people talking are people and therefore we should remain respectful of opinions contrary to our own.

And one final note: nonviolence is not merely a strategy. It is a way of life – though it can be employed as a strategy. The best metaphor i can think of is this (wherein it becomes excruciatingly obvious i am, in fact, a religion major): you can read the Bible as a scholar to examine its historical value and to inform your opinions on literature, society, or its misconstrued use in American politics. In this context, your reading may not be faith-based, but is a tool to reach a greater end. Conversely, if you read the Bible as a sacred text (which doesn’t necessitate you remove a critical eye) and see its rich complexity and contradictions and laws for life as something by which you intend to pour every facet of your being into, you are reading the text as a way to live your life. The same could be said for reading the Bhagavad Gita or the Qur’an. On one hand, it is a tool to understand something; delving deeper, it is a road map of beliefs. I believe in nonviolence, and i ask you in your responses to not write this off as a “foolish strategy.” This is my life, and i am (perhaps foolishly, i admit) being vulnerable here and stating that.

I respect those of you who think a military intervention is needed, but i disagree. While this side to the conversation is complicated, i will save longer thoughts for another time – in part, because i’m not sure if it’s really my right to have any say in how Kony is brought to face justice. Instead, i shall employ the words of two men whom i admire greatly, as cliché and over-used such phrases might be: “The arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Mahatma Gandhi.

Shalom to you all.

some helpful links:

interview with arhcbishop odama (a man whom i have met twice and am in remaining awe of – a nonviolent activist and leader in uganda). thanks to thera for this link!

the acholi religious leaders peace initiative (really, read this!)

an incredible vlog and african response to this hype. please, if you read or watch nothing else, read/watch this. 

“The Children” are NOT Invisible: Why I Don’t Support the KONY 2012 Campaign.

I was first exposed to the conflict in Northern Uganda at the age of fourteen. My exposure was, as i have articulated many times, a radical uprooting of the doll’s house i had grown up in; my white privilege, American privilege, gender identity, and perception of self not only became salient to me, but i thrust such perceptions all under robust and ruthless scrutiny. Through interactions with women and men my age and older in Uganda returning from tragedy beyond articulation, i uncovered a passion for fighting for human rights for all peoples. But more importantly, this realization did not merely stem from shared or witnessed woe – it came from a shared human experience. My friends who live in Uganda are human beings, as flawed and beautiful and resilient and hopeful as you or i. I awoke then to a global community committed to human rights because we are all human, not out of pity.


My exposure to the Ugandan conflict is a rare anomaly in the scope of international awareness. I was educated because i went to Uganda. In all honesty: i knew nothing about Uganda before i left; our trip was spent half in Uganda and half in Rwanda, and i was focusing all of my pre-departure energies on the latter. Thus, my education was first-hand and on-the-ground.

Not everyone has this blessing or opportunity. It is for this reason that i think much of what the organization Invisible Children does is fantastic. They are supremely good storytellers; as flawed as their methodology and approach may be, the team behind the documentaries and information dissemination do a brilliant job at communicating the importance of caring for people whom most of their donors and participants will never meet. They instill a dedicated passion for a cause that, in and of itself, does not threaten American security or comfort on an individual level really at all. In terms of introducing the Ugandan conflict to broader discourse especially among my peers across the country, Invisible Children is great.

Most importantly, i have no doubt that the people who are at present posting “KONY 2012” as their facebook statuses and writing checks to this NGO have the very best of intentions. In no way do i want to ever discredit the commitment one human being has made to another to see their full identity and fight for their basic, inalienable rights. This is a beautiful act.

But the “KONY 2012” campaign is not, in my opinion, the way to empower and actualize the full identity of an entire nation of peoples and victims of war.

The KONY 2012 campaign, for those who do not know, is the latest brainchild of Invisible Children, an organization based in the United States with a mission to end the conflict in Uganda and its repercussions across Central and East Africa. Spawned by a 27 minute video, this campaign seeks to promote awareness about the war crimes of Jospeh Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA (the insurgency that initiated the civil unrest in Uganda and army that is responsible for abducting over 30,000 children and forcing them to be child soldiers and sex slaves) through a social media grounded guerilla art movement. This is to be manifested in the form of sharing, reblogging, tweeting, and posting “KONY 2012” on all forms of internet discourse with links to the Invisible Children website. Furthermore, the campaign is to come to a head in April when mobilizers are to “cover the night” by putting posters, pictures, and stickers of “KONY 2012” on every visible surface they can find.

At first glance, this intention is excellent. Of course i want people to be educated and aware about the gross injustices Kony has performed. Guerilla art? Count me in. Social media? I live in my computer – golden.

But promoting such awareness by glorifying a criminal, portraying this intervention as an American/white man’s burden to “help” Africa, and encouraging a militaristic intervention?

Absolutely not.

This conflict is far more complex than a mere facebook status can convey; frankly, it is more complicated than a thirty-minute video can explain either, particularly when 50% of said video is dedicated to why “YOU” must end the war, not what Ugandan leaders of independent grassroots movements, churches, mosques, and other bodies of change decree what needs doing. To end a war, we must confront injustice by empowering the people involved.

This means that the voices of “the children” must be heard far more than our own. I do not see this in the KONY 2012 video. In fact, the whole narrative begins with Jason Russell, one of the founders of Invisible Children, saying “my life was changed.”

Yes, it’s your narrative, Jason. Yes, please speak to what you know. But let’s all remember this is more than just one story – one story is an excellent place to start, but the truth resists simplicity.

The impact of the scene in both the original documentary and this video of Jacob mourning the loss of his brother is so. so powerful.  In many ways, i think everyone in the world should see this scene to understand the visceral sorrow that was – and remains to be – the war in Uganda. Woe is universally transcendent of language and border. But do not let this woe be all of Uganda that you see. All of the empowerment, of the celebration of human resilience in the face of adversity, were scenes filmed in America. In part i am sure this is because of resources, and yes, some of the people in America were Ugandans – but what of the people who live in Gulu town? What of their relief? Their self-actualization?

This depiction of Uganda – as children suffering from the horrific impacts of war – is an incomplete picture that is otherizing and portreying the conflict as something that “we,” in our American privilege, must swoop in and “fix.” In this reductive perspective, there is no space to love and seek to understand people complexly, because the war is all that we see.  And to paint this conflict in the eyes of the American public by creating a campaign of hatred towards Joseph Kony is not, as the film claims, subverting or changing the way the media portrays global challenges. It is totally buying into this idea that “the bad guys” are the face of war – and it furthers this concept of Uganda as a nation broken and in need of “the good guys” (meaning Americans) to save “them” from Kony.

Furthermore, by putting Kony’s face as the face of the conflict, we are glorifying violence and his crimes against humanity. But more importantly – and i will fully disclose this to be a reflection of my own belief in nonviolence as a way of life – there leaves no room for forgiveness. I am not alone in thinking that Kony should not be put to death, and that this action would not heal the wounds this war has scarred us all with. Calling for the ICC to step in is fine, but integral to rebuilding a country torn apart by war is an element of forgiveness (which is different from forgetting – and doesn’t mean there is not an element of accountability for crimes committed). And this act is not for those who did not live through the war to decide the fate of – not me, not Invisible Children. Forgiveness must come from those who need it, and those who need to give it.

And this doesn’t even begin to cover the disparities within the Ugandan military in terms of accountability and real peacemaking. Grant Oyston, a sociologist and proprietor of the Visible Children Tumblr, does a superb job in this article of describing why a military-driven intervention in Uganda is not the best solution. He describes the problems with a military-driven mindset, for all past military interventions have failed and caused violent retaliation by the LRA. I highly encourage you to read the entire piece – but if you take only one thing away from it, please take this:

“Military intervention may or may not be the right idea, but people supporting KONY 2012 probably don’t realize they’re supporting the Ugandan military who are themselves raping and looting away. If people know this and still support Invisible Children because they feel it’s the best solution based on their knowledge and research, I have no issue with that. But I don’t think most people are in that position, and that’s a problem.

Is awareness good? Yes. But these problems are highly complex, not one-dimensional and, frankly, aren’t of the nature that can be solved by postering, film-making and changing your Facebook profile picture, as hard as that is to swallow. Giving your money and public support to Invisible Children so they can spend it on supporting ill-advised violent intervention and movie #12 isn’t helping. Do I have a better answer? No, I don’t, but that doesn’t mean that you should support KONY 2012 just because it’s something. Something isn’t always better than nothing. Sometimes it’s worse.”

Good intentions are good. But they are not enough.

I want to reiterate once more i don’t think ill of anyone who has reblogged or posted or stamped KONY 2012 to their foreheads – your compassion is never to be understated. Thank you for caring. Selfishly, Uganda is a very special place to me and seeing so many people taking public stances for human rights in a country i love so much is moving, moving in ways i cannot describe. I am not telling or asking you to stop caring or to stop being involved with social change. I am asking you do so in an informed way that imagines and seeks to understand this conflict complexly, and in a manner that acknowledges our stance as allies in a global community of agents of change. Empower yourselves!

And, should you want a documentary to dive deeper into the complexity, might i direct you to the brilliant, Oscar-nominated masterpiece that is WAR/DANCE. You will not regret it; there is no narration on the part of the documentarian, and juxtaposed to unbridled woe that is war is uncontainable hope and resilience and pure human-ness.

Let us all work to imagine peace in its complexity.

**EDIT: Invisible Children has since put out a counter-blog to some of these criticisms and many others. I encourage you to read their side as well! Thank you for your thoughts!

**ALSO AN EDIT: There is now a PART II to this post, viewable by clicking here! Thanks! 

*** I HIGHLY RECOMMEND YOU WATCH THIS. This is the best response i’ve yet come across.

current jam: “vienna” billy joel.

best thing in my life right now: going to les mis tonight!

On My Own.

While it may be a little-known fact in my life here (meaning in the internet TARDIS online) there is a story i love with the same fervor and devotion i have for Harry Potter. The format of this tale, though originally bound in book form, has been with me for my entire life through something unique to words encased in precious pages. Since my childhood – in fact, since some of my earliest childhood memories – the musical adapted from Victor Hugo’s masterpiece has painted a backdrop to my inner and exterior life.

I am speaking, of course, of Les Misérables.

It might seem – well, frankly – okay. Let’s be real. Les Mis is hardly material appropriate for a six year old to listen to on repeat with such frequency she goes through three Compacts Discs by the age of twelve. War, terror, suicide, unrequited love, poverty, wrongly accused over-punished criminals, treachery, and a steaming pile of misery as only Hugo can deliver. Les Mis is, easily, the most complicated and intricate modern musical in existence – in plot, musical composition, and in subtext. It is so elaborate that every time i have listened to the soundtrack in my humble nineteen years, i find something new; be it meaning, musical decision, or enlightened understanding of the story, the story’s breadth captures the whole of my being.

I’ve not been quite so public with my passion for this musical as i have with, i don’t know, SherlockDoctorWhoHarryPotterJohnGreen every other unhealthy relationship i’ve developed with fictional characters or story lines. In some ways it is because, despite my best efforts, every insignificant blog post i slave over does little justice in my mind to these “obsessions.” (It’s in quotes because the word dirties my mouth with its negative connotations. Also, i’m in denial; i’m fully aware of this, at least).

At the risk of sounding horrifically redundant, though, my love for things like Potter and John Green may be intensely personal – and yet is supported by community. For the vlogbrothers, it’s the nerdfighters who are made of awesome and with whom i can talk about intellectualism and the celebration of discourse through social media. It’s a shared love for philosophy as professed by angst-ridden teenagers in his collected works. In the case of the Boy Who Lived, i’ve been dressing up with scars on my head and a wand in my hand at least two or three times a year since i was seven (and i was only characters from the books for halloween, uh, twice). Clutching hands in movies over wordless scenes, hopping from foot to foot in the line for the final pages. Potter may exist in my mind as my own, but this love is upheld in a community of like-minded freaks.

Les Misérables is not supported by such a community. Well, at least not for me. Sure, i spent 70% of every day in high school living and breathing and thinking about theatre, but even then i rarely spent the hours i’ve devoted to unpacking Alaska’s motives or Snape’s devotion mulling over the Bishop’s charity or Fantine’s tragedy. The musical, for me, is of equal weight and measure in the art by which i interpret my truth as aforementioned arts – but its also been for a much smaller community.

It’s my mother lovingly explaining to me the PG-version of the plot at age seven. It’s Becca and i generating stage directions for our eventual elementary school production of an abbreviated version of the show (sadly, our efforts never came to fruition). More intimately, it is singing along to Eponine when i was fourteen and fancying myself in love for the first time. It is Javert’s tragedy. It is Valjean’s redemption.

The only reason i am poorly articulating this now is, well, i wanted to process and there was none to process with. In an act ironically so symbolic of the musical’s meaning to me, i am going to see the 25th annual re-staging of Les Misérables on Wednesday night. Alone.

It was not, initially, intentional; a dear friend of mine let me know the show was in the are at all. Alas, our schedules conflicted and so she couldn’t accompany me – but the lure of seeing the so highly acclaimed reinterpretation of the story so beloved to me since my youth was inescapable. With a little encouragement from the roommate, i called the box office and claimed the last ticket available for Wednesday’s show. Though first filled with trepidation at the prospect of walking into the glamour of the theatre, alone, for what is promising to be the most depressing and beautiful and gutted-out-longing show, i’m slowly warming to the idea of a night alone. In a room of strangers, there will be nothing between me and the music. Call me crazy, but this solitude gets more appealing by the minute; while there won’t be anyone to analyze each detail of the show with after curtain, the musical will be – in a totally selfish and esoteric way – only for me.

In the last year, i’ve been taking more and more of my what my roommate most aptly and crudely and brilliantly refers to as “mastra-dates.” Yeah, they’re pretty much exactly what the name implies: taking yourself out as a treat in an activity socially expected to be done with a partner. Going for noodles in the town over-the-hill, seeing a film, taking a walk on the mountain. Sure, there’s no foot-popping kiss in the rain at the end of the night, but there’s also no horrifically awkward conversation about what you’re going to do with a religion major when you graduate, either.

The older in soul i grow, the more i live into my introverted-ness and the more i seek out times to replenish my solitude in mind. Part of this is college; living in a dorm guarantees that those hours spent on my own in a house with no one around when i was younger are obsolete. It’s lovely, but exhausting. And, being the educated young feminist that i am, i don’t need to wait around for a potential partner to take me out – nor is my worth determined by whether or not i’ve got someone to share the popcorn with in the movie theatre.

So, damnit, i’m going to see Les Mis on my own. I’m going to ball my way through all of Act II without a thought for trying to impress anyone around me. Sure, the drive will be a little long and a little lonesome. Undoubtedly, i’ll text Becca at intermission with incoherencies like: “GAVROCHE. MY HEART. THE FEELINGS. BECCA.” or, better yet: “WHERE IS THE BINDER WITH MY CHARACTER SKETCHES OF ENJORLAS AND COSTUME IDEAS? CLEAR YOUR SUMMER SCHEDULE, THIS CHILDHOOD DREAM IS GETTING F$@#ING REALIZED AND YOU’RE MY MUSIC DIRECTOR.” And, yes, the most isolating part of the night will be when i want to turn to someone after curtain and share that look of the deep, my-soul-has-taken-flight-for-these-past-three-hours-but-now-to-resign-to-reality eyes paired with a heaving sigh. In some ways, though, i rather relish the idea of walking out with no company but the music in my ears and thoughts in my heart.

But my soul will still be taking flight. And this might be the wings it needs in this winter slump. I’ll just need to remember to bring my own tissues and bottle of water.

Wish me luck.

current jam: “on my own” from the 10th anniversary cast recording.

best thing in my life right now: the above. also, cats.

things i did elsewhere: revamped muh tumblr. there’s a new travel page, if you’re so inclined. also, a vlog about how freaking awesome coretta scott king was.

The Postcards Have Mailed!

And my apologies for the delay – with the sudden March winterstorm, last week was a little more compact than i anticipated. Should anyone else still want a singular postcard with a note from me, email your name and mailing address to lizziemcmizzie@gmail.com.

As this is nothing more than an announcement-type-y post, here’s a meme i made last night for your viewing pleasure:


If i’m a muppet, i’m a man of a muppet.

Okay, i have a flurry of professorial meetings and paper-writing to dive back into. Bye, and stuff.

Saying Goodbye.

Things expats like: comparing the amount of stamps in your passport to everyone else.

It is terribly true; i take great pride in every whacked-on circle or rectangle of ink splattered across the pages of my passport. Sure, they’re aesthetically pleasing to the eye in the mismatch of overlapping geometric shapes and all, but the comparison of who-has-the-better-Ugandan-Visa question runs a little deeper than simple visual pleasure. It’s rollicking in the memories of voyages well-taken, swapping tales of motorcycle rides through East African cities or night-time wanders through the North East corner of London. Opening your passport is opening an invitation to adventure; the blank pages entice and beckon in the exhilaration of the unknown while remnants of a journey past remind you why the dust never really settles.

I’ve had my current passport since i was fourteen, having acquired it for my first sojourn to Uganda in 2007. In fact, it arrived literally at the last possible minute for our departure – despite having been sent for in February of that year, my ticket to international travel and proof-of-citizenship arrived no later than the morning of our flight to Uganda.

As in, mid-July. Our passports took five months to process, when we’d been told it would take no longer than six weeks.

My mother and i had packed our bags in a tense, forcibly optimistic atmosphere the night before, hoping and praying that we would be able to go on the trip we’d been needing for, well, our whole lives. When she’d called me from the post office (she drove over prior to the mail folk leaving on their morning rounds because we couldn’t afford to wait around for the mail person to deliver) i, quite literally, dropped the phone and fell onto the couch. I don’t deny i’ve got a bit of a penchant for the dramatic, but it was the kind of turning point in my life that – even without the suspense of the vacant passports – called for the utmost of performance from my adolescent self.

And to compound the ease and emotion-free departure, my Great-Grandmother passed away that same morning. So maybe the crying out and collapsing was more to do with the extreme conflux of emotions running rampant in the household than just my first international embarkment. The morning i first left the country, the morning i woke up to the first Proper Adventure of my life, a light went out.

Needless to say, opening up my passport opens my memory to considerably more than the stamping of a visa.

This morning, though, i bid a bit of a farewell to my first passport. It expires this July, and as there is an incredibly-slim-but-incredibly-awesome chance that i might be leaving the country for a bit this summer (i don’t quite want to say any more just yet, in case it jinxes things) i needed to renew my documentation. And while i know i get it back – hole-punched to prevent double identities and whatever – a part of me was sad to bid farewell to its creased pages and outdated logo. This passport carried me across my first international border, it was with me all the time in South Sudan, it allowed me entry into England, and served as a holding place of a marker for each journey in self-discovery. Call me over-attached to the material, but my passport means far more to me than a terrible picture and birthdate information.

But, then again, a new passport comes with new promises. Tantalizingly blank pages beckoning to be stamped, inked, and otherwise blotted with the marks of a thousand boundaries to be crossed. A new, equally as appalling, photograph to forever remind me of this snowy slushy, hair-in-an-untamed-afro day. Perhaps a sturdier cover for the more, shall we say, aggressive-purse-packing voyager.

Most of all, though, a new passport brings with it the possibility of new adventure – and few things in life are more exhilarating than such dreams.

current jam: “smooth criminal” naya riviera & grant gustin

best thing in my life right now: the impending weekend. and its promised fifty, snow-melting, degree weather.