Global Lens Reflections on life, the universe, and everything

Rush to idiocy

John Ochola was kidnapped from his Ugandan village of Giligili in 2003 by the Lord's Resistance Army. After being held for several days, LRA soldiers cut off his ears, nose, hands, and part of his lips. Thousands of young people have been mutilated by the LRA in over two decades of conflict.

Late last Friday night I returned from the Dominican Republic, flying into Seattle. I then had to drive to Portland in the middle of the night, so I sought out some rightwing radio stations to listen to. These usually keep me awake, and this time was no exception. One station I found was a call-in show where the host and callers were discussing President Obama's decision, announced just that day, to send 100 U.S. troops to Africa to help fight the Lord's Resistance Army and capture Joseph Kony. What amazed me (and, frankly, kept me wide awake) was the absolute ignorance of the host and the callers. They knew nothing about Africa, much less the LRA. One caller talked about how the LRA, given its name, had formed to defend Christians against Muslim aggression, and that Obama was sending the troops to fight on behalf of the Muslims. No one challenged that! (In fact, the opposite is true, given the LRA's role as a proxy militia for the government in Khartoum, long used to attack largely Christian communities in the south of Sudan.) I made it to Portland fuming mad (and wide awake), recalling my visits to communities in several countries where people have suffered from the LRA. People like John Ochola, who I photographed in Kitgum, Uganda, in 2007. He had been kidnapped from his Ugandan village in 2003 by the LRA, and after being held for several days, LRA soldiers cut off his ears, nose, hands, and part of his lips before letting him go. I had met him at the hospital, where his son was sick, and interviewed him about his experience. I then took him back to the local office of the Lutheran World Federation to photograph him with a relatively plain background. I wrote about John and the work of the churches in northern Uganda to broker a peace deal with the LRA in an article published in America, the magazine of the Jesuits in the U.S. If you'd like to see Sudanese fighting back against the LRA, see the July 12 image below. (Update: See Stephen Colbert's commentary on this issue.)

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