Kony Island: The Case for a US 2012 Viral Campaign

Something odd and not so funny happened yesterday after I logged into my social accounts. I heard an awful lot about some dude named Joseph Kony. There was a link on my Facebook page to Kony 2012. My first thought was, ‘It’s finally happened. The GOP has found a new candidate, some random Tea Party guy named Kony’. But not even the Tea Party would identify with this brand of psycho. Turns out Joseph Kony is a Ugandan warlord building a child army of murderers, mutilators, and rapists. Clearly, he’s not one of the good guys. The Kony 2012 campaign, designed to make him famously infamous and effect his ultimate capture, is social media at its best — a grass roots, game-changing, and difference-making engine steered by highly engaged folks. Kony 2012 has gone viral; it would not surprise me if NATO put a plan in motion to seize him. Still, there’s a problem here. The United States has a rapidly growing poverty problem, thus, a growing marginalization, abuse, homelessness, and violence problem. Where is the US 2012 viral video?

As a New Yorker who commonly rides the subway or what Newt Gingrich once called the transportation of the elites, I use the MTA to gage the state of the economy. The more panhandlers and homeless I see, the worse the economy is. Based on my experience of the past two weeks, the economy may be getting better but it’s by no means back. How have I come to this hypothesis? Glad you asked. It’s tough to have a montage moment when writing a blog but try to go with it. Here’s what my elitist subway adventures have revealed in the last 10 to 14 days:

  • I have seen a woman beg for money while holding a sign of her sick baby
  • I have nearly been knocked over by the steaming stank of piss courtesy of two homeless men
  • I have seen a Chorus Line of homeless people walk up and down my train car
  • I have seen a child hold a hat while his father begged for money
  • I have seen a man beg for food or money because his foreclosed home went up in flames

OK, cheerful montage is over. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the impoverished state of the subway system. Or the epidemic of no to low-income families in Memphis. Or the 21% poverty rate in Mississippi. Or the rising number of working poor in Washington D.C. Where is this viral video campaign? Do such circumstances warrant attention only if they are linked to a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina? Where is the righteous indignation? Where is the social momentum?

This is not meant as a slight to the Kony 2012 effort. It is admirable and worthwhile. But not every fight for social justice has to take shape on foreign soil. Take a ride on the New York subway. Board a D.C. Metro bus. Go walkin’ in Memphis. Do these things and then explain why what you experience, what you see, what you end up feeling, isn’t worthy of a game-changing, difference-making viral initiative.