Ze Frank, Kony 2012 and Don Quixote

When I was a little girl, my bed was tall enough for me to sit under. My sister and I had gotten on our own rooms for the first time in our lives. Our dad had cut in half the bunk bed he had made for us to share. Kerry got the bottom half, and I got the top half. It was my space, under my bed. I had pillows, a lamp and a record player. I read, dreamed and listened to music.

It was under my bed that I discovered Man of la Mancha. I was so swept away by Don Quixote, Sancho and Dulcinea that I had the words of the story album memorized. To this day, I can still recite most of it from memory. It has been strong in my mind this morning.

In the past few months, I have found myself drawn to people in positions of anguish who are failing to fall prostrate to their despair…choosing instead to not only create hope in the midst of pain, but to share it publicly. I am inspired by the vulnerability in it. I am inspired by the strength in it. I am drawn to the humanity and imperfection of them. Through their bravery, I see the path to my own courage light up before me…and I push forward.

In every instance, however, I find encounters with another character in Man of la Mancha, the Great Enchanter. For those unfamiliar with the story, the Great Enchanter defeats Don Quixote in battle by presenting him with his own reflection in a circle of mirrors. Don Quixote’s faith in his mission is overcome by the “reality” of his circumstances and limitations. He falls, never to return to the field.

Cynicism is a tempting version of reality. The reality of our fallible humanity is a truth that is hard to argue with. We are imperfect. We make mistakes. We break down. We do stupid things. And, as the windows into each other’s worlds increase as our online lives become increasingly visible, becoming the ‘voice of reason” amidst a groundswell of enthusiasm over anything is an addictive position to take. It arms up against the possibility of dashed hopes. It puts us into a position of “see? I told you so.” In the instance that someone’s imperfection shows. We did not fall for it.

The Joseph Kony 2012 campaign drew criticism from the moment it was launched, and then the criticism grew sharper and more pointed after the man who made the video had a very public breakdown as a result of the public scrutiny.

Ze Frank became an online sensation six years ago with his quirky breakthrough video blog. You can see the fear in his latest video as he screws up the courage to launch his next endeavor. He seems to be braced for impact. And, unfortunately, he is likely to get it as people will come out of the woodwork to offer up their commentary, good and bad.

The world is rotten and god doesn’t even know we’re living on it.
Aldonza
Man of la Mancha

I have loved this quote for most of my life and repeated it often. Cynicism has been my “go-to” forever. I wanted to be at the front of the “I-saw-right-through-it” queue. But I find that this kind of thinking has left me wanting. I want to be inspired. I want to hope. I want to believe. I want to find people’s bravery inspiring, especially if they are imperfectly human, like me. It gives me hope that all of us crazy, hot-headed, weepy, impractical, baggage-carrying misfits can do something beautiful. That maybe all our efforts will meld together, in ways we cannot even anticipate, to bring our broken culture into something beyond our ability to imagine alone.

So, to everyone out there who is thinking of putting yourself on the line and bringing your imperfection out for the rest of us to see – remember that what you see in the enchanter’s mirrors is only a very shallow aspect of reality, and that there are always going to be those who can’t see past that. Please don’t let that stop you.

To those of you who feel a little fire kindle whenever you see, hear or read something brave and human…comment, share, follow. Be bold in your hope. Set yourself up to be ridiculed for being naïve or misled. Don’t be afraid to be inspired.

And, to all of you, from a little girl, under her bed with a record player…

xo,
Kimberley

Hey! I got interviewed!

My friend, Shelly Immel, has a kickin’ project called THE BIG LIFE PROJECT. As she moves into her own bigger, fuller life, she blogs about her own experience and interviews other people about theirs. Despite the fact that I have spent the better part of my life avoiding being in front of the camera (preferring to prep and stand behind the camera), I agreed to be interviewed…largely because it is Shelly and I figured she would find a way to make it easy for me. She did.

Go on over and check it out to see how I did. And while you are there, sign up for the Big Life Project to get updates on what she posts. You know you want a big life…go get some hints and support for getting yourself one.

Love,

Kimberley

 

Why Kony 2012 Matters

It almost doesn’t matter what the “cause” is for the Kony 2012 campaign.

Almost.

At least for me.

I am coming at this from a particular vantage point. And I am writing this today, because I think I am not alone.

The glut of information of all that is wrong in the world has been overwhelming me for years. There is only so much I can follow, only so much I can research, before I begin feeling inadequate and unprepared for the task of doing anything about much of anything at all.

I only have so much in the way of resources…time…energy…money. Every choice I make to support a cause is also a choice to not support another, just as worthwhile, cause. And what is the tiny bit of money I can give against a tidal wave of need that rises into my world every day through the multiple media channels that surround me? Every effort I make seems consumed by even greater need, until I become paralyzed and block it all from my view.

Every day I learn more about how this government, that is supposed to be representing me, doesn’t. And that knowledge pushes me further into paralysis, because how can I possibly make my voice heard in the sea of lobbyists with bankrolls and party invitations? Can I really expect issues most important to me and my kids to be prioritized above the issues of those who have underwritten the campaigns of those in office?

Then, along comes Kony 2012 and I am transfixed. In the space of two days, my Facebook, Google+ and Twitter feed are all filled with posts about this viral video. It is what I always wanted the Internet to be, but what it has not been to this point…a vehicle for amplifying the voices of the many so that they could be heard above the cash that controls the government officials. The message has been distilled and simplified to the point that it is easy to deliver, easy to understand, easy to follow and easy to support. Someone has taken what is possible with social networking and turned it into something probable.

When we join this legion of voices, we are not only amplifying a call to the government to bring Joseph Kony to justice, we are becoming a community. With this campaign, we are sensing our power as a people. We are feeling what it means to be a government of the people, by the people and for the people…as the founders intended.

I have for years agreed that the government has gotten out of hand. I have not, however, been able to get behind those who would abolish the government or lessen its power. I have worked in the oil and gas industry too long to believe that self-regulation has any possibility of keeping us, as human beings, safe and that is just the tip of the iceberg. No, we need government. But I feel pretty confident that, if the founding fathers could see what this government has turned into, they would be horrified. And, if not, it is enough for me that I am. This government does not represent me or my kids. It is easy enough to see, in the decisions made by governing bodies every day, whose interests are being protected.

Kony 2012 is imperfect in its goals. I have done the reading and read the reports and comments on those reports until I am swimming in them. At no point do they outline explicitly HOW justice be served, but that it remain a highly visible priority until it is….but the critics have much in the way of material to work with in their criticisms. However, at the end of the day, three important truths remain:

  1. Joseph Kony is a brutal war criminal with a trail of brutal abductions, heinous rapes, atrocious murders and maimings using children as his army.
  2. He is still at large.
  3. We have had 26 years to bring him to justice and have not.

So, it is well past time for this to become a matter of large-scale public concern.

But this…this viral campaign…is more than that. It is opening doors to the possibility that we can, as a people, demand to be part of the conversation. That we can share information more easily than ever before and discover the truths that lie outside of the tightly controlled messaging being fed to us on any given issue. That we can find a way to join our voices of concern together in a way that makes it impossible for those in power, the ones with the ability to actually represent us in a tangible way, to ignore us.

That is worth supporting. That is worth fighting for. That is worth our energy.

 

Kony 2012, Charity Navigator and the Critics

My heart aches today and it has become too heavy for me to not respond to what I am seeing happening online with regard to the 2012 campaign. I have seen the criticisms. I have taken them very seriously. I read the blogs and articles. I read the comments on those blogs and articles. I looked at the financials and at Charity Navigator’s facts figures as well as the reviews posted by others on that site in the comments. I have done my due diligence, and I am continuing to do it.

I have lived as an aid worker in a developing country, which is something many of the people weighing in on this issue have not done. I also have a background in global communications (over 20 years in advertising/marketing and corporate communications). The combination of these two things…along with my emotional connection to the world and the problems in it, has made it impossible for me to sit silent in the face of the criticisms I have read. The critics, while sometimes making strong arguments, are dangerously and irresponsibly incorrect when looking the issue as a whole.

We live in a time where we are all bombarded with wild amounts of information and detail. We, as a culture, have begun to distrust all corporate media and for good reasons. We are aware that their job is to make money and to report things to get us to watch. We are clear that our government is controlled by lobbyists and have seen our elected officials fail, time and again, to live up to the promises made by them as they campaigned for our votes. And we are all keenly aware that injustice in this world is rampant and we feel completely powerless to do anything about it. Which causes are the most important and what can we, as voiceless and powerless citizens, do to change anything at all…anywhere?

So, there are two parts of this Kony 2012 mission…the one that is directly spoken about and the one that is hinted at. And the one that is hinted at is so important to us as a culture that it could change everything forever.

I want to address the overt mission first…the mission to stop Joseph Kony. I have read the academic arguments on why the Kony 2012 campaign is ill-conceived. One at a time:

“It is late/it is more peaceful now/he has moved and lost power already” Yep. This one is true. We should have done something 26 years ago. But we didn’t. And, while it is true that he does not have the power he once wielded and has gone into hiding, I can’t imagine how this is a good argument to just throw up our hands and walk away. His history is so virulent that it MUST be addressed…now. And to the children and families still living in fear in the vicinity of this horrible madman, and the ones who are still captive…it is not too late. If we do not find him now and bring him to justice, what are we saying to the children whose lives have been lost in service to him? What are we saying to the families who have lost children to him? What are we saying to those who would step into his place when he is weakened and gone?

“He is using children as a human shield and they would be in danger.” Yes again. This is true. But they are in danger now. They have been in danger. And, if we do not do something, they will continue to be in danger. Additionally, the Kony 2012 campaign is not advocating a specific military or diplomatic strategy for finding Kony and bringing him to justice. So to argue that because we are hanging up posters, we are telling Obama to send in troops is inaccurate and silly. They are asking us to keep this effort in our consciousness and to continue to advocate with our government.

“This is an African problem, not a US one.’ Not going to spend much time on this one, other than to say…we are a global community now more than we have ever been in the history of the world. The fact that this could happen, did happen, is a crime against humanity. Those children are our children. Those families are our families. Those dead are our dead.

We should be focused on empowering the people with education/jobs/clean water/etc. Oh, I love this one. We absolutely should be doing what we can to give these children a better shot at a healthy, educated and strong future. No question about that. However, that this even comes into the argument demonstrates an incredible “first world” bias. If families are terrified that their children will be abducted in the middle of the night…if children are afraid of going to sleep because they have seen their siblings and friends brutally murdered…education and medical care are an almost laughable approach. Maslow’s hierarchy of need, people. If I don’t feel physically safe, don’t talk to me about recycling. This should not be an either/or situation. And, while it is certainly true that the Ugandan people now need these things desperately, there are organizations already dedicated to this mission…and it is not the mission of Invisible Children, who have been dedicated to the cause of arresting Kony for nine years.

The Invisible Children foundation is spending too much money on film-making and media. As a Communications professional, I am always stunned at how completely clueless people are about what goes in to staging an effective campaign. The organization CLEARLY stated that their goal is to elevate this so solidly in the public eye, and insinuate it into so much of the social media, that those who have the power to impact change…will, if only because they will look bad to their constituencies if they don’t. This requires money and staff…good staff. People who know how to deliver a message in a powerful and compelling way across generations/economic divides/political divides/geography/etc. And those people who have this knowledge and these skills have families and lives to support. If you operate on a shoestring, you get a shoestring response. It is that simple. We would not even be having this discussion on this scale if the people running this campaign did not know what they were doing.

The film is centered on the little blond haired boy. Decades ago, leading international neurologist, Antonio Dimassio proved that it was physiological impossible for humans to make a decision, any decision at all, without engaging the emotion center of the brain. Facts, charts, figures…none of that does it for us. Ever. This horrible atrocity is occurring well outside of our Monkey Sphere (another study done that basically asserts that we can not hold attention for any person or issue that falls too far outside of our local experience of the world). What this means in terms of communication is that the event must be connected to us directly somehow in order for us to maintain the attention span for it. The film does an outstanding job of not only doing this, but also giving us an entry point into a story that most of us have not been following very closely as he explains it to his small child. His child is a perfect bridging element for us.

This is not simple. Nothing is ever as simple as we make it out to be. I realize that the campaign oversimplifies the issue. But 26 years to sit around debating what should be done is too long. It is past time to do something. Anything would have been better than 26 years of what these people had to endure, and endure still.

Tomorrow I will be blogging on the second factor in this Kony 2012 issue that, I believe, is FAR more important than the original objective and, if it succeeds, may change the way everything is done forever.

Here’s the 30 minute movie, if you haven’t seen it yet.

A Family Story for a Blustery Day

I have not been blogging lately. My dear friend, Jill, just called me out on Facebook. That’s what dear friends do. They call you out when you are hiding.

The truth is, I don’t know what to write to you. I am falling out of love with the sound of my own voice. My internal machinations seem less interesting to me than they have. For the past week, they just seem exhausting.

So, a family story.

Two years ago, Grant wanted to make something for his dad for Father’s Day. He had decided on a drawing on a t-shirt. He picked out a green t-shirt and a black Sharpie for his work.

His first attempt produced nothing but frustration.

“I ruined it!”

“I can fix it.” Haley rushes to his rescue by trying to fix the word “dad” which, he was right, did not look quite right. “There. It’s better. See?”

“No, it’s not right,” Grant said, scratching through the word in anger and frustration. “It doesn’t look like a present now.”

Tina grabbed her purse.

“Come on, Grant. Let’s go get another green shirt.”

Grant reluctantly gave up his anger and frustration. He always gives it up reluctantly. He holds on to bad humor as if he needs some sort of satisfaction of a global acknowledgment of his justified anger.

“OK. Throw that one away.” He doesn’t ever want to see it again.

“We’ll take care of that later, Grant. Come on. Let’s go.”

They return twenty minutes later. New green shirt, which Grant completes to his satisfaction and wraps it up for his dad. As he is wrapping his gift, Tina works off to one side on the other green shirt that she has not thrown away after all.

“Nice work, Grant. Your dad will love that.”

“I can’t wait to give it to him.”

Tina hides the other green shirt for later. She gives him his moment with his triumph of his shirt.

The next week, when the kids return. We are all getting ready for bed. Tina emerges from the bedroom wearing the cast off green shirt Grant had been unhappy with as her pajama shirt. Haley is the first to speak.

“Is that the shirt Grant made for daddy?”

“No,” Tina responds. “This is the shirt he made for me!”

As we look at the shirt, we notice that Tina has colored in a heart over the scratched out “dad” and written her name in red below the heart. In mostly Grant’s writing, the shirt reads “Best Tina ever!” Don’t dare think otherwise. P.S. Can I have a cup of coffee?”

Grant protests, but his heart isn’t in it. Tina’s over the top sense of humor, which I am always afraid will push Grant over the edge, delights him in a way he can’t resist. Try as he might to hold on to his indignation, he can’t. He protests…but laughs with us at Tina’s cheekiness.

Tina wears the shirt when we have the kids. It is mostly not even noticed now by anyone but me. But it still makes me laugh.

For Tina, on Her Birthday

If all else perished and she remained, I should continue to be; if all else remained and she were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.
(Wuthering Heights)

I wish I had written this line for you,

But if I had, you would hate it

Because you hate novels like Wuthering Heights

And tease me constantly

Because, I love them so.

And I love you for that.

You keep me from taking myself too seriously.

You hold me when I am all frayed edges

And remind me that it is not always this way

You have taught me to trust

That little voice inside me

That screams of adventure

And wishes

And dreams.

You have taught me to trust you

And us.

I love who I am with you.

I love who we are together.

I love you.

I cannot fix the hour, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.
(Forgive me, that’s Pride and Prejudice)

Happy Birthday, my love.

If You Wanna be the Top Banana…

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a thrift store in search of a kitty purse, and not just any kitty purse. This one was quite small, more of an evening bag in size, and the front was covered with a screen printed photo of a kitten. I tore the place apart looking for it. It had been there just a week before when I had been in this thrift store with friends. I even asked at the front counter if there was somewhere else in the store where these kind of things might be kept. No luck.

David Niven is not the kind of guy that you would expect would have an inordinate fascination with kitty purses, but he was among the group I brought to this particular store, and he was the one who labored over whether or not to buy this little purse. In the end, he left it there and voiced his regret later. I determined then that I would return as soon as I could and buy it for him.

To be honest, though, David is not the kind of guy you expect anything from…meaning, that he appears to be, and is, capable of doing all sorts of things. He is in his 20s, but his wardrobe is intentionally 80s…with neon and baggy pants ruling the day. He wears his blond hair long and is quick with a smile. It has been weeks since he left our home, after a short few days stay…and I miss him.

David travels around with Gary Lachance and his Decentralized Dance Party. He helps Gary get all the boom boxes set up and scout the route the moving party will take. Then, on the night of the DDP, David dresses in one of the banana suits and works the crowd while Gary runs the show with his broadcast. I used to be in event planning and I have seen many people in the type of role David plays in the festivities., if not exactly in a banana costume. I have never seen anyone work a crowd like David does.

Bananatude

When a circle forms, it’s David who gently and playfully urges just the right people to jump in and dance for the crowd. When part of the group needs to break off from the other for dramatic effect, David effortlessly leads them. When Gary plays a slow song and the crowd begins to sway, David somehow manages to pull the entire group together for a giant bear hug of a slow dance. And, he does all of this without anyone even really noticing he has done it. And this is the beauty of David. He is in it for the crowd, for the party, for the group…he clearly does not need any recognition at all that I am still a little stunned when I look back on the evening. I knew his role, and even I didn’t notice everything he had done until after it was over.

He wanted to cook us dinner before he left…and I wish we had figured out a way to let him. He kept wanting to do something for us, when all we did was offer him a bed to sleep in while he was here with us. We returned home from our trip to New York to find that he had hung our tire swing in the tree in our backyard. We have lived here almost two years and have not managed to get that hung. The fact that he even noticed it was out there is remarkable enough. Hanging it meant that he had to ride his bike to the nearest place that sold rope and then figure out how to get it slung high enough onto a solid branch. It had to have taken him hours. He said nothing about it until long after he had left.

When we drove the boom boxes up to New York, David was in the hallway of the Brooklyn artist loft space where they were crashing for the New York DDP. He had a yellow shirt laid out and was spray painting a design on it from a stencil. Mushrooms and sunshine…which is an obscure combination, to be sure. But I find myself thinking of it now and wishing I had one like it, if for no other reason, than to remind me that there are people out there who just naturally love to make things into a party…who just naturally want to get everyone involved.

If you happen to see a small kitty purse for sale…one with a screen printed kitty on it, please give me a heads up. I have no idea what on earth he wants to do with such a thing, but I have a feeling it would feel like a party to whomever he gave it to, which is reason enough for him to have it.

 

Video Skype, Adventures and Our Friend Maya

Monday, we had a long video Skype chat with our super hip friend, Maya Stein. For those of you unfamiliar with Maya, she is a feral writer, poet, chef, diorama artist and lip sync maven. She has traveled across the country doing feral writing workshops…and she is constantly dreaming up new crazy things to do.

Conversations with her always make me want to go out and spray paint our truck…make our front yard a giant diorama…pack Tina and the kids up and travel around the country in an RV. There is an undercurrent of “What’s next?” with her that is contagious.

The conversation came around to the paradox of how to live the wild life while also recording it. There is something about being in the middle of a grand adventure that makes it hard to record. It is often hard to get enough distance from the middle to actually write anything that communicates what is going on.  You know how it feels to be the one on the vacation with the camera and having to decide all the time if you actually want to participate in the activity, be in the moment, enjoy the scenery…or take pictures of it? It always feels that way for me, except that, on the bigger adventures, I’m also not completely understanding what I’m looking at anyway. So, I wait for the story to unfold a little. Wanting to capture the whole of it, rather than the snapshots.

But then, when do you stop the adventure and take time to record it…in whatever way you choose to record such things. It is a little disorienting to come off of something life-changing and stay still long enough to let it soak in and become something to tell. But being slow and solitary, there is not much to tell about.

It’s an addiction, being the adventurer…being the one in the peer group who is unpredictable. As much as I am loath to admit it, I like that I am introduced now as “the one who just returned from Haiti.” I like how that defines me instantly. And I would be lying if I did not admit that I’m not crazy about the fact that it is wearing off, and now I am just me again…writing.

It is a quieter life…but the truth is, I really love it when I manage to pour out a single sentence or paragraph that truly tells where I am or describes what I experienced. I love watching the story emerge in words. I dig how my life now is reflecting some of what I learned back to me, and that, the more I write, the more I understand of my experience there. When I am actually writing, it is like the whole experience is happening all over again, but with context this time. And that is kind of cool.

Maya is in the planning stages of her next big thing. I can’t wait to see how it organizes and becomes something bold and epic. And we will follow her along in her adventure…or hear about it afterwards…and delight in the unexpected bits that always accompany an out-of-the-ordinary experience.

And, in the recesses of my brain, I will be putting the pieces together of my own next adventure. I’m thinking it might include passports.

Swimming in Haiti

I wrote this as I sat in the restaurant in the Kinam Hotel…downtown Petionville.  The heat, lord the heat…my primary occupation was to find a way to escape it.

Submersion

The woman meeting me for lunch today was late.

But the larger faux pas was mine.

I leaned my chair further back from the table

Until it pushed against the railing

At the edge

Of a balcony,

Overlooking a crystal clear

Sparkling

Pool.

And the day smothered me

In heavy blankets of heat,

Just like every day in Haiti.

 

I removed the linen napkin,

Placed deftly onto my lap

By someone who apparently had not noticed

That I had lost interest in lunch.

I just wanted a closer look,

Just a little closer

To the vacant

Glistening

Pool.

How cool it must be in there.

And clean.

And familiar.

It was the familiarity that moved me,

Of course.

So suddenly common

Amidst so much uncommon.

 

Without missing a beat of the siren’s song

Of water lapping on tile,

I slipped out of my sandals

Onto the railing

And leapt into the water below.

So that, when my lunch companion finally joined me,

Late,

My carefully chosen ensemble

Was drenched

And single beads of water slipped over my brow

And into my hairline

Following the line down my neck

And tracing my spine.

 

I shook her hand as she apologized and sat down.

Wishing I had acted on the impulse

Instead of imagining it

As I had

So vividly

That I could taste the chlorine in the sweat

That ran a river

Down my face.