Invisible Children on The Couch

March 14, 2012

Step Right Up Folks and See the Invisible Children.

“Did you hear anything about this on NPR?” my wife asks?

“I think kids are into it because they want a sense of community,” says my fifteen-year-old, “but they are asked to pay three dollars a month and they get posters of a bad guy to sneak around at night and put up—how’s that going to help?”

“The dad who made the film seemed kinda… I don’t know, like he’s not a grown-up; and he has his six-year-old in it and he’s adorable, but what does he have to do with the issue?” wonders my seventeen-year-old, adding “And then they interview this African kid who says, ‘I wish I wasn’t alive,’ and that’s powerful, we get it, but then the guy keeps asking him, ‘So, you would rather be dead than be on this planet?’ and other questions until the kid is crying.  It seemed like he was exploiting him.”

My younger son honestly wonders if it’s a scam.  He’s read around on the topic and tells us that Kony’s army is down to two hundred people in remote areas and is hardly the biggest problem the world needs to be aware of at the moment.  And the ten million dollars donated (money from the one third of the revenues that goes to actually helping) only helped five hundred kids, while there are tens of thousands needing help.

After dinner and the dishes I Google “Invisible Children NPR” and bingo, four concise minutes on the topic, my sons drift over, listening to the radio emanating from my battered laptop.  Only the younger one listens to the end.

“You trust NPR,” he says.  “They made my same points,” he adds, and this is true.


We walk the dog in the moonlight and my fifteen-year-old tries to study vocabulary but his eyes can’t adjust and he keeps stopping by house lamps to read a word and then quiz my wife and I on the baggage continually loaded on the train to nowhere, to SATs and college, and NPR and invisible children.


Of course there’s a “sucker” born every minute, since we all enter the world needing to nurse.

I guess most of us just never get enough, and it’s our untamed greed that makes us vulnerable to the con.  There’s a pro to take every last nickel.  There’s an art to the con.

“This way to the egress, see the egress.  Don’t miss the egress,” P.T. Barnum would say to the folks who’d already put their cash on his barrelhead and gawked at his lurid sights.  And after they’d seen the egress they found themselves standing in an alley just short of the money they’d started with.


The next day my fifteen-year-old tells me that Invisible Children has enough money now and is not accepting any more.

I wonder to myself about the sort of genetics and experiences and economics and politics that conspire to create “bad guys” of major proportions, and about the forces that create viral fluxes in mass attention.  I wonder when consciousness might go viral, when treating hurt kids with compassion rises as a bigger agenda than killing the bad guy.

I picture the old trope of townsfolk with torches and pitchforks swarming after Frankenstein, of Nazi propaganda and tides of hate binding youth to bloody purpose.  I realize that I have no idea about what is right, about who is bad, about how to help us see the invisible children.  I feel free, suddenly, of opinion.

And I’m at dinner, at that Cuban place I love, eating garlic roasted chicken and plantains and rice and black beans and cold Mexican beer and life is good and my fifteen-year-old is talking about the sheep’s heart he dissected at school that day.  The wall of the heart was as thick as his knuckle.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Wolf Pascoe March 14, 2012 at 9:47 pm

There sat down, once, a thing on Henry’s heart
só heavy, if he had a hundred years
& more, & weeping, sleepless, in all them time
Henry could not make good.
Starts again always in Henry’s ears
the little cough somewhere, an odour, a chime.

And there is another thing he has in mind
like a grave Sienese face a thousand years
would fail to blur the still profiled reproach of. Ghastly,
with open eyes, he attends, blind.
All the bells say: too late. This is not for tears;

But never did Henry, as he thought he did,
end anyone and hacks her body up
and hide the pieces, where they may be found.
He knows: he went over everyone, & nobody’s missing.
Often he reckons, in the dawn, them up.
Nobody is ever missing.

— John Berryman, Dream Song 29


Bruce March 14, 2012 at 10:21 pm

It’s all so sad, confusing and disturbing… so hard to know if we are worse than we think or not so bad as we fear. After so much modern alienation I’m just wishing for tenderness, compassion, community, fairness and perhaps a little laughter.


Meagan Frank March 15, 2012 at 7:00 am

Your book sits on my nightstand, and I am better, more patient, intent on compassion and softer for its presence. I lost your blog for a while…missing the fact I needed to re-subscribe, but I’ve found you. I have to believe that what is true, real, and full of authentic love will be like the cream that rises to the top because the muck can no longer hold it down. I love that you have two boys who have you as a father and who are just about ready to be the cream. MMF


Bruce March 15, 2012 at 11:06 am

Hi Meagan, These words bring me much joy, for sometimes we wonder if our efforts have any value or use, and then we find love rising up to reflect the collective froth of soul, born like Venus of the sea, her origins dark and her transformation bright. Wishing you that same kindness as we arrive at love lived more vividly, the muck proving fundamental, nourishing and golden in its own dark way. As Chancey Gardener says in Being There, “If the roots are strong there will be growth in the spring.”


TheKitchenWitch March 15, 2012 at 7:11 am

Hey, at least you are having these important discussions with your boys–navigating this world is confusing stuff.


Bruce March 15, 2012 at 11:09 am

Hi and yes KW, and having these important discussions with you too as we grown-up strive to navigate the wine-dark sea of our often confusing world, with you one of the soul stars by which I locate myself and navigate my way to love in the here and now.


Katrina Kenison March 15, 2012 at 7:26 am

A thoughtful perspective on this in todays NYT:

Agree with Kitch, above: each conversation with our own children about these issues is some small contribution to humanity.


Bruce March 15, 2012 at 11:23 am

Hi Katrina, Yes that Op-Ed piece is everything I would have hoped to say if I were writing an informed opinion on this topic—and so very well worth other readers clicking over to see it (and of course it stirs, in turn, negative comments).

As another of my guiding soul-stars by which I navigate (you and Rolf these days continually offering perfect synchronistic love and lessons each day when I read Meditations from the Mat, itself a gift from Pamela who sent it when she wasn’t walking on her hands), you Katrina, and the conversation we all cook up in trying to live and love in a more present and compassionate manner, are a treasure to me and I hope contain seeds for a better world that may soon grow like grass, a Whitmanesque gentle wind sweeping over our fair planet and helping us awaken to the consciousness that we are all family.

Having worked with many hurt and ostensibly “bad” kids I yearn for a deeper understanding that stands on the shoulders of viral and mass awareness to go beyond stopping “bad” guys and into cultivating a generation of safe, loving and compassionate beings.


BigLittleWolf March 15, 2012 at 9:58 am

I wonder when consciousness might go viral…

Now there’s a thought. Consciousness, and possibly conscience as well.


Bruce March 15, 2012 at 11:29 am

Hey BLW, perhaps the “when” turns out to be that eternal moment when the ticking clock of the brain gives rise to a softly quiet, perhaps transpersonal, heart, a heart that gazes lovingly at itself in the mirror of whatever is.

Until then, and even then, particularly then, XO


Kristen @ Motherese March 16, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Two days late and two dollars short. (I probably spent them on a latte and not, alas, on a contribution to combat the LRA.)

I taught history for twice as long as I’ve been a parent and my limited experience in both has convinced me of the power of shining light (gently, with compassion) on that which is most upsetting. As Dana said and Katrina reiterated, what better way to forestall horror than to love our kids and talk to them? (And by “our,” I take my lead from you and mean “all our.”)


Bruce March 16, 2012 at 11:08 pm

Hi Kristen, It does seem that our world is becoming both smaller and more transparent, and that probably bodes well for those who are not lying, thieving or murdering lunatics. While reasoned discussion with all our kids seems like a good plan for a more thoughtful world, it’s the viral and seemingly arbitrary zeitgeist that shines these lights, and briefly, and then moves on. Social change and momentary awareness would seem to be different animals… but then momentary and intense attention just might reflect the current zeitgeist. I guess we’ll all stay tuned, advocate compassion and consciousness and hope for the best.


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri March 16, 2012 at 5:15 pm

I am coming late to this discussion, but am even more perplexed today about this movement. This afternoon, Mr. Russell was arrested for running around naked on the streets of CA and making sexual gestures. Confusing not only for kids, but for adults as well. I don’t know what to make of it. Is he sabatoging his own movement?


Bruce March 16, 2012 at 11:21 pm

I just became aware of this latest twist from your comment, Rudri, and after reading the news story ( I’m struck by the toll that intense amounts of attention may take upon any given human, not to mention whatever the robust or fragile state of their wiring to start with. Perhaps this highlights the importance of the group over the individual insofar as individuals may burn out when so much voltage runs through them while the group is challenged to move toward real and lasting solutions (i.e. compassion, protection, health care, education for ALL children in a context of transparency, honesty and fairness) versus quick phenomenon of attention, jolts of energy (money, controversy, fleeting “fame”) followed by meltdowns (personal, violent, economic, ethical) and then disinterest (like old toys that children toss aside as soon as a new toy is introduced until all of them merely bore the child).


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