Dances With Kony: Not Exactly The Expired Gimmick That You Thought It Was, Invisible Children Raves and Rallies in DC

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I'd just arrived in DC when a Volvo nearly flattened me. Like a fool, I was snapping pics of a Kony 2012 van rounding a rotary. Such a sight, I figured, was less common than a decade-old “Support Our Troops” magnet, or a rolling remnant of any other fad cause that expired some time ago. It was a shot worth risking a limb for, but as it turned out, I didn't have to jump into action. Just a few hours later, I spied yet another ride decked in protest of the murderous Ugandan cult leader Joseph Kony. And then another one. And then another one the next morning.

My initial hunch was that a Kony cavalcade was on on my tail, making me feel guilty for being the only person on the planet who lacked the heart and attention span to watch the entire Kony 2012 video that went super viral eight months ago. Even with that creeping threat, though, I didn't give the vans much thought until early Saturday night, when at dinner I met a lovely church-going family that was uniformly dipped in Kony regalia – hats, headbands, and red tees to match the circling minivans.

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To my surprise, there were thousands of others just like them in town; they'd already marched on the National Mall with Jason Russell, the Kony 2012 director and Invisible Children honcho, and had a massive soiree planned for later on. It was hard to believe, but the invitation was right on the charity's web site: “In true Invisible Children style we are ending the night with a massive dance party back at the convention center to celebrate the global community that we are all a part of . . . Trust us: you don't want to miss a minute of it.”

I trusted them, and not just because my only prior plan was to get stoned and go ice-skating. Even if I had a beer summit scheduled with Obama himself, skewering this Kony bash would have instantly become my top priority. At the time, I had no clue that my evil instinct would fade when I arrived at the Washington Convention Center, only to find countless well-mannered teens lining up. (I had a harder time slamming them than I expected; comparatively, I couldn't help but think about how when I was their age, I spent my weekends sniffing Special K with crass hip-hop visions of blood diamonds dancing in my Starter hat.)

While Christianity is utterly ridiculous, and most of these kids will end up being cogs in corporate death machines, it's also true that religious families often raise some darn good kids. Though I found an empty fifth of vodka in the pisser on my way out – and despite Russell's history of gallivanting in the buff – I'm pretty sure I was the only person there on drugs. Everybody else seemed high on Christ, on music spun by the Jane Doze, and on the promise of dismantling Kony's deplorable though dwindling Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

The main criticism of Invisible Children is that the organization wastes far too many millions on filmmaking, office space, and other things besides directly helping African youth. I'm not about to be that writer who has never penned a word about LRA atrocities, yet rails Russell for how much more he can do in the world's most vulnerable region. Still, in the sea of red t-shirts and bandanas, it's easy to understand the skeptics. This is a seriously powerful movement, with a seemingly endless stream of resources and naive supporters.

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Here's the other thing – a lot of the people at Kony Rave 2012 were down with Invisible Children since before Russell's video blew up. One family I met was from Virginia Beach, where they've been putting up visiting Ugandan teenagers for years; their daughter even runs a local Invisible Children chapter out of the school near their home. To date, I have yet to house a single Ugandan scholarship student, so once again, it's hardly my place to eviscerate their efforts – especially after meeting some of those hopeful young Ugandans in DC.

As for the party itself – there was no beer at Kony Rave. As a consolation, though, the volunteers and “roadies,” as some paid hands are called, passed out enough neon necklaces to stretch from Washington to South Sudan, plus gave away free t-shirts to everyone. If you're jealous that you missed the action, rest assured that you'll get a chance to rock with them soon. According to a “roadie” who I interviewed, Global Dance Nights are “the future of Invisible Children.” The party must go on until they dance on Kony's grave.

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Anyone who thought that popular anti-LRA rage had dissolved into the AOL of protest movements – some bullshit to keep old folks busy on the internet – was wrong. The same goes for those who believed that pop culture had seen the last of Russell (and his dick); in covering his “rapid descent,” last month the Daily Beast reduced the Californian to a “cyberspace punching bag,” and suggested that his Kony 2012 follow-up film, which garnered significantly less views than his breakout sensation, was “a dud.”

They'll still loathe him in person, but Russell's detractors should see dude twirl a crowd; at the rave, he summoned tears by asking everyone to think about the first time they cried for Kony's victims (think Jesus Camp on HGH). The guy has a miraculous hold over his audience; in introducing Team iLuminate of America's Got Talent fame, he told everyone to put their phones away – and they did! Consider Russell the 311 of controversial human aid fronts; like it or not, this incredibly cheesy tour has no apparent end in sight.

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I do wish that the kids in that hall were protesting against our own putrid leaders, and that they paid more attention to the invisible children in their own backyards. But lamenting that high schoolers are rallying for one cause over another is like complaining that a blow job from a porn star isn't sloppy enough – no matter what, it's better than nothing. In a few years, some of these kids might even be activated by something that they read about, rather than by a propaganda video. That might not be something to rave about, but it's good enough for me.

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