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Kony's Surrender, The Hunger Games, Social Justice and Your Teen

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Sources say that Joseph Kony is close to surrendering to international forces. The infamous leader of the Lord's Resistance Army operating in parts of Congo and/or South Sudan was made ubiquitous worldwide by the viral Kony 2012 campaign, centered in the U.S. and run by the nonprofit known as Invisible Children.

Although Kony 2012 and Invisible Children both suffered some setbacks after the wildfire spread of the campaign, I've consistently held that we may not know the entire result of the Kony campaign until the generation it most touched grows into their eventual adult place in society. The 2012 viral video and ensuing actions set a generation of kids on fire in a way that I've not before witnessed. I watched as my pre-teen daughter, my teen neighbor, and millions of kids (kids!) in between and throughout the U.S. caught on fire for a cause. This viral video initiated them into a whole world of injustices that they'd not before been witness to.

This past weekend, the second installment of The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, smashed the box office. The series of three books had a similar affect on my children, and others of their generation. Of course, we realize that this is fiction, but the exposure to societal inequity and injustice that they see in Panem serves as a basis on which to explore other, more real issues. The second movie touches on themes such as unequal access to food, involuntary labor and racial oppression. Like the first movie, and the Kony viral campaign, it inspired both my children to think about these themes and engage with them in a way that they've not done before. Like many middle class children, they are either removed or protected from the direct experience of these things. As a child of abject poverty, food scarcity and government dependence myself, their comfort and fortune often worries me, while at the same time making me feel fortunate and sometimes even having a sense of pride in the life that I've managed to provide them.

These kinds of topics and happenings in our current cultural zeitgeist can be used as stepping stones to more proactively parent our children toward becoming better global citizens. We can help to connect Kony's eventual surrender or demise to direct, applied action of the masses. We can tell our children that the pressure would never have mounted enough were it not for people -- teens even -- willing to talk and share and stand up to say "I believe..." We can talk about forced labor in the mines of District 12, while pointing out ways that we can support workers, such as fighting for a higher minimum wage, or seeking out clothing that is socially responsible and asking for fair trade coffee. The gift-giving season is upon us -- why not consider pointing your young shopper to the locally-sourced products of socially sustainable retailers like Gifts With Humanity? How about a discussion of cuts in the SNAP program compared to the cycle of gluttony in Panem's capital?

As a mother and social justice writer, I struggle daily with the balance of wanting to provide my children a healthy cocoon with minimal discomfort, while also preparing them to take on the injustices of the world -- a role I expect them to step up into someday. Using these cultural happenings as a springboard to a more nuanced look at the world is a good start on their future. I'm hoping, in writing this, that other like-minded parents will join me.