By Mitch Holt, Staff Writer
Don’t Believe the Hype
How could such a heartbreaking catastrophe go unnoticed for so long?
I am ashamed of myself.
The desperation in Southern Sudan and Northern Uganda convicts me. Have I struggled for survival, for a place to sleep and a hot meal to eat? Never in my life have I worried for my safety to the extent that thousands in Uganda and Sudan face every day.
As the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group of guerilla fighters that dwells in the jungle by day and in the cities kidnapping children by night, becomes more zealous about their pointless but devastating cause, thousands of children between ages 8 and 14 are being robbed of their innocence.
“Invisible Children” is a documentary reverberating throughout conversation across the country. This week the film and several of its supporters were in Abilene showing the documentary to students and others in our city.
The film captures the violent kidnappings of young children who are being forced to fight for the LRA’s cause and manipulated into vicious fighters, along with those striving to dodge the violence of the group by living in poverty more abject than we can imagine.
The film documents five young boys who live as wanderers in their own country, dodgers of the rebels. At night, the boys retreat to the damp, demeaning basement of a bus yard, where they mutter Tupac songs, weep about abducted friends and sleep side by side on the flooded cement floor.
This is similar to situations that many refugees in the area face, but most are not lucky enough to have a secret hideaway.
Many flock to the confines of a protected dingy hospital at night, welcomed by nothing more than protection, bodies stacked in piles concentration camp style, while disease has its way with many. This is a refuge for them – a place to escape oppression.
This is a mere glimpse of the situation. It doesn’t crack the surface of what really goes on.
I see my warm bed, my television, my triple-venti-three-pump-vanilla latte, my health and my freedom, and I am ashamed. I’m ashamed that I write colorful columns about the poverty-stricken, claiming that I recognize an ever-present epidemic, yet not truly affected as someone who truly cares. Knowing how to handle these feelings is difficult.
The easy thing to do is continue to live in ignorance, to consciously allow ourselves to get lost in our technology-driven, career-path-of-choice lives in which a trip to church on Sunday makes us feel better about our lavish living.
But what good does that do? Injustice – poverty, racism, complacency, war, violence, rebel armies – survives because of our willingness to live in ignorance.
Ignorance is the easy way out, but it’s not the right way out. If you have, give. Propel yourself into the uncomfortable realm of questioning what is comfortable. Go above the collection plate and start a revolution of your own. Become an activist for peace and a patron for the poor.
Question every ideal handed to you by society, and start over.
But at all costs, deny yourself the rut of comfort on which we Americans thrive, the rut of comfort that allows rebel groups like the LRA to have their way with the women and children of third world countries. Replace it with compassion.
For when we truly do this, no rebel army or racist regime can survive.