Feel free to browse, comment, peruse, laugh, cry & check out my latest movie reviews and musings.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

My take on the Jason Russell situation...

I haven't felt compelled to blog in a while. Tweeting has replaced long form writing as the creative outlet for my menial nothingness. However, the situation with Jason Russell has been breaking my heart. I will start by saying this: I have never given money to Invisible Children and I am aware of the organization's flaws, misguided ventures, and critical scorn. Having said that, I'm surprised and sickened in some ways by the response to the Kony video and Russell's recent meltdown. I remember seeing the first Invisible Children video almost 10 years ago. I saw it at a time in my life (I  had recently graduated high school) when I did not have a whole lot of ambition. That first film was one of the initial reason's I decided to pursue videography. I saw 3 guys, a few years older than me, who were using video (a medium I loved) to attempt to make a difference in the world. I was inspired. Fast forward 10 years and their work in Central Uganda continues, as has their movement. For various reasons I haven't continued to track with their work, but I have appreciated their continued pursuit of justice in Africa. I understand the response of the media. These white, metro/hipster, 30 somethings in designer clothing think they can change the world. It is easy fodder for scrutiny. They made a video to galvanize young people to put posters up around their neighborhoods. Misguided? Maybe. Naive? To a degree. However, they are doing something. Google (or Bing!) Toms Shoes, TWLOHA and any other number of trendy social justice movements and you will find pages upon pages of critics. Are they an underground Christian movement? Are they hoarding money? The problem is that people are flawed; we are broken. Flawed people create flawed organizations. It's math (kinda?). I firmly believe that Russell and his cohorts genuinely strive to create a difference in the lives of children; a cause I firmly support. When I first read of Russell's meltdown on Twitter, it did not surprise me. The guy has been under an insane amount of pressure the past couple weeks. I tried to picture myself in his position-a young dad and filmmaker who is attempting to find hope and justice in an otherwise hopeless world. I am not condoning what he did, but I also am not sure how I would react if I created something positive only to have it obliterated by cowardly bloggers and tweeters. The only thing that people like more than praising those who strive to make a difference, is tearing people down when they fall. Kony 2012 is not a perfect movement and I even agree with many of its staunchest critics. However, I am sickened by the aptness of people to tear down that which is intended for good.

Is Kony the only problem? No. Is he still in Uganda? Probably not. Will someone step in to take his place once he's eliminated? Definitely. However, unless we are living perfect lives, or have better ideas, we should probably not say a whole lot.

Take off your Toms. Stop wearing sweat shop clothes. Don't buy coffee from Starbucks. Throw away your smart phone. Dump your iPad. Don't eat chocolate. Bigotry and hypocrisy are closer than you think. Jason Russell is flawed. So are you. So am I. Jesus once said that we should first take the plank out of {our} own eye, and then {we} will see clearly to remove the speck from {our} brother's eye. I have a lot of issues. I can look at what Russell did and think it is despicable, but I will also choose to show him empathy because I have a lot of ___ (insert synonym for feces) in my eye as well.


Davis Koenig said...

It pains me to what what some people have posted about this story. We are all flawed and in need of God's grace, whether we are fighting against the injustices internationally, or here in our own country. I just pray that this serves as a learning experience for him and us all too.

Travis said...

I am trying to think of an appropriate response to your post. Here is what I have so far:

First, thank you. I think it is important to not rashly dismiss such a headline knowing that the next day public thought will have moved on to the next failed ideal. I often times find myself thinking it doesn’t matter what I do/say in response to such things, knowing that my opinion matters little in the grand scheme of national or global issues. However, what does matter is truth. Truth: Words are powerful. What we say matters. It takes one voice to inspire a movement.

Second, I wanted to reiterate your statement of brokenness. My heart also hurts for Jason Russell, his family, and the Invisible Children Movement. We live in a world where people love failure more than success. Our culture celebrates it. Maybe it is just human nature. We love when people fail because all of us are failures and seeing others, who seem to have succeeded, fail helps us to feel like we are not alone.

Third, I wanted to add to your post the idea of hope. This world is broken. Mankind is broken. Entropy is not only the state of the world; it is the state of man. Nothing seems to prove that more than the injustices that take place every day around the world. Therefore, this situation with Russell should act as a reminder for all of us that our goal in seeing justice come to fruition is to be built on nothing other than the cross of Jesus. (Already I see readers stopping here because just using the name of Jesus means that my thoughts are narrow-minded and irrelevant to today’s issues.) While this situation with Russell is unfortunate, I think the timing for this to have happened is God’s providence. It is a good thing that this happened before April 20; the night KONY 2012 goes viral in the cities around the nation/world. We all needed to be reminded (and continue to need to be reminded) that apart for Christ, we can do nothing. When we turn our hope to the work of man, there is no other outcome than that of failure. (Please note that I am not saying Jason Russell had put hope in himself or the human institution of IC, but rather I am trying to defend that his work of trying to do something that matters is still valid despite what the critics and critweets* are saying. *I’m coining that word right now.) This is ultimately what Easter is about and another reason for the providential timing. Man can’t save himself, let alone others. It is in the power of Christ that movements such as IC and the KONY 2012 campaign have the authority claim that what they are doing does make a difference.

I hope that anyone who reads my meandering thoughts on your post or on the issue with Jason Russell would be pointed to the foundation of which hope is built, Christ and him crucified.

Barak said...

Dan I liked your post.

But Travis, something in what you wrote really pisses me off. I don't know exactly what it is, but I think it's something that I remember from my Christian days. And I don't mean this right at you. But it's the idea that when something bad happens to someone, really spiritual people start saying things like, "There but for the grace of God go us all," and "We are all broken people," and "What a lesson in God's grace" and on and on.

It's all so pious and sounds so good, but I think I know what it also means. "You did something very wrong and we will never ever forget it." I mean, your whole point is predicated that this guy has failed, that he is a failure. The main thing you were trying to say is that god makes us whole, blah blah blah, but I hate that's the starting point for many people in the church.

The guy didn't decide, with a sane mind, Boy I'd like to expose myself to some people and rub my genitalia. It's very clear that he was under unbelievable stress and broke. He went crazy. Why keep mentioning him as a failure?

Thats not my main thought, though. I feel like this guy is collapsed on the ground, out of his mind, and your language makes me think of someone standing above him, yelling to the gathering crowd, "there is a lesson to be learned in this man's falling."


The correct response to this is either to discreetly help the man or, out of decent humanity, ignore that it happened. And then FORGET IT. I can't fathom how embarrassed this dude is going to be tomorrow. Or the next day. How many times he's gonna have to apologize. But the saddest truth of all is this man will be forever tainted by this in many people's minds, especially Christians. In 40 years this guy is still going to be referred to as an "example of the redeeming power of Christ," and the person doing it will have no idea what a prick they are being. They'll just think they're pointing people to the cross or some such noise.

Earnest people scare me.

DuckMan said...

Dan, well said on your post. i cannot agree with you anymore.

However Barak, even if that is your real name which I doubt it is. What did Travis say that pisses you off? I am being rhetorical by the way. It's surely written in your disgruntle opinion, which we are all allowed to be opinionated. Especially when we leave out post out here for the world to view. But seriously why attack a person for what his opinion is? From what I read I thought he meant well. Especially he didn't mean any malice to the matter. Not once did I read word for word that he said...hey everybody this dude is beating off in middle of the streets, that he's setting his own invisible children all over SD. Let's try not to put words into people's statement when surely it isn't there.

I understand your frustration for sure. I agree with you that Russell needs help. You wrote "you hate that God makes people whole..and thats the starting point for the church" Um isn't that the reason why they are going to church? If people feel broken and incomplete, the whole idea of somebody telling you it's okay because you were born broken and that there is healing in God. Doesn't that raise hope and faith in people? I'm not saying that this should by any means give anybody any kind of immunity or a sense of superiority because you are saved. But who are hurting sometimes need something much more out there.

That's what I think Travis is trying to say Russell was the image of the IC. The bigger message is that it's going to hurt the overall movement of a great cause, because of the propaganda that it created and attention it received. Christian or not, we surely agree that enslaving Children into War is a gut wrenching thing. We should all be talking about that and not what Travis beliefs. You guys are both agreeing on the subject of the matter, but why bash on a person's faith? He has as much right as to believe what you believe in. How would you like for him to say...oh well this dude doesn't believe in Jesus and what is says is bullshit. So what he wants to pray for the homeboy. What did prayer and wishing good on somebody is malice? The malicious thing is the movement is damaged. We can all agree to that. But singling out one person and referring him to the whole lot of other Christians out here...well then you are generalizing. Did you know Hitler was "a Christian" too. Ha, you might as well relate Travis to the Furior. It's damn right absurd. From what I read, homeboy was being compassionate and meant well. Let's leave the Character Assignation and the Bashing of Mama's out of this and lets get on the real Crime...Bashing Your Meat in Public.