***Disclaimer: This post does not address the flaws in the Invisible Children’s approach to capturing Kony, nor does it touch on the problems in Africa. Those problems are overwhelming and important and deserve to be discussed, but they aren’t what I’m writing about today. Rather, this is about the American reaction to the video. So yes, yes, this is about ‘first world problems’–a phrase I despise. We live in the first world and therefore address the problems within it. Should we not do that? Should we only contemplate third world problems? Ones we are under qualified to understand? Because tackling third world problems really hadn’t gone so well for Invisible Children. What is so wrong with considering the problems we face? Whew, a tangent before I even begin…
In the wake of the KONY 2012 controversy I’ve been thinking a lot about the flack we get for trying. The hateful response to the video and movement has really taken my breath away. If I were the guy who made it I’d have a public breakdown as well. Hell, a few years ago I had a pretty awesome breakdown without being eviscerated by the internet.
And it isn’t just the KONY folks, it’s fucking anyone who tries anything. I’ve been coveting a pair of sparkly TOMS. I think they’re adorable and I dig that they give a pair away for every pair sold. I’ve had conversations with no less than 5 friends who find TOMS mission worthy of an eye roll. Everything from “How pretentious is it that they PLACE the shoe on the foot of kids?” to “Do these kids really need shoes? What about food?” to “Why aren’t they helping American kids?” Well, TOMS chose a mission. They didn’t decide to feed kids, they decided to put shoes on their feet. And I think that is fucking awesome. It is a hell of a lot more than I’m doing, and more than any of my friends are doing either.
It’s like if anyone tries to do anything positive the only thing other people see is the mistakes-and how they personally would do the positive thing so much better. Well, if that is true why is no one getting off their asses? I was reading a stream of replies to a KONY article by activists, actual fellow activist, people who do the same damn thing for a living, and the contempt, vitriol, and venom was so over the top and devoid of any self-awareness. The only conclusion I could reach was those commenters were being eaten alive by jealousy at the success of the KONY campaign. And the joy and relief they felt as the campaign and the organizers came under scrutiny and things started to fall apart, the schadenfreude was sickening to me. Call me naive, but I’d expect people who dedicate their lives to helping others to have a shred of compassion.
What is wrong with us? Have we become so small? So petty? I’m not saying the KONY folks had it right. I don’t know enough about the wars in Uganda to have an intelligent opinion. But my take away from the video was the group’s first priority was raising awareness. And from that lens the movement has been a huge success.
The KONY thing had me thinking about the impulse we seem to have to tear down anything that goes well. The other day I was telling Z that before we began I really was freaking out about potty training T. Z’s mom helped potty train her eldest granddaughter and I had a fantasy about her coming up to help do it with T. I just didn’t think I could do it myself, I thought I’d pressure him too much or not enough or somehow find a way to fuck it up. But it’s been a few weeks and it’s been going really well. It is by no means perfect, there are accidents and frustrations. But I’m doing it. I’m actually doing it. I’m potty training this kid. And it feels good. He suggested I write about it and I told him that would be way too braggy.
Now, you, my kind and tiny readership, would not be mean to me about being braggy. I know you all personally for the most part. We’re actually friends. And let me take a sec to thank you again for indulging me by reading this. I really do appreciate it. But if a blogger with a large readership were to write about successful potty training there would be comments about how it isn’t that hard, there’s no reason to be self-satisfied, and don’t forget there is a bunch of stuff that the writer is getting wrong in the parenting department. The comments in the well read blogs seem so focused on taking anyone with some success down a notch.
It is so much easier for me to write about my fuck ups than my triumphs. Yes, the anxiety disorder has something to do with it. But there is a larger cultural shunning of celebrating success. If we don’t feel comfortable talking about what we do right how are we going to encourage our kids to feel good about themselves?
I’ve already had T parrot some alarming things to me. He says, “I’m so sorry, Mommy” about things he doesn’t need to be sorry for. He gets that (‘so’ included) from me. I’ll apologize to you for the sky being blue if you give me the chance. I don’t want him to grow up apologizing for existing. When someone leaves the house he’s started to say, “Be safe!” Another thing I compulsively say. Am I instilling fear in a two year old? I don’t want him to learn my neuroses. This includes not be able to celebrate his successes. Encouraging him is a big part of it, but I also need to learn to embrace my own accomplishments. Which should be easier because thankfully my accomplishments are not big enough for the internet to notice.
So yeah, potty training is going well. I’m proud of myself. Also, we should be nicer to each other. Not less constructively critical, mind you. We can and should disagree, but let’s be fucking civil. And kind. The end.