Fallen Hero? – The hospitalization of Invisible Children’s Co-Founder

The hospitalization of Invisible Children (IC) co-founder, Jason Russell, comes right on the heels of IC’s greatest success and controversy to date- The KONY2012 viral video.

I can only imagine the ferocity with which people are writing their articles, blogs, and tweets mocking American youth’s “fallen hero”. I have been rather vocal with my concerns regarding the KONY2012 campaign and IC but my heart goes out to Jason Russell, his wife and 2 children, and the committed staff of IC. This incident is like raw meat to the hungry lions that have been clawing at Jason’s door.

Jason Russell, 33, is currently being observed at a mental health facility following an incident in San Diego Thursday afternoon.

To be clear, he was not arrested by San Diego police. Authorities received calls that Russell was in a state of undress, allegedly under the influence of drugs or alcohol, publicly masturbating, and vandalizing vehicles.

The question running through the minds of supporters and critics alike is, “Is the real Jason Russell a drunk and loser? Or is this the very public turmoil of a man overwhelmed by recent events?”

Who is the man that has suddenly become a household name and a symbol of activism and idealism for American youth?

Ben Keesey, IC’s chief executive officer, gave a statement saying, “The past two weeks have taken a severe emotional toll on all of us, Jason especially, and that toll manifested itself in an unfortunate incident yesterday. Jason’s passion and his work have done so much to help so many, and we are devastated to see him dealing with this personal health issue. We will always love and support Jason, and we ask that you give his entire family privacy during this difficult time.”

It is incredibly hard to separate the organization from the man. To a degree, this makes complete sense.  As a co-founder, Russell is the face of IC and his actions reflect upon the organization in a powerful way. How do we trust the integrity or responsibility of the organization if we feel we cannot trust the man? That is simply the burden of leadership. Still, Jason Russell has spent the last decade pursuing justice for Uganda.  He has raised up leaders, inspired youth, motivated governments, and cast a powerful vision. He cannot  be measured by one unfortunate moment in time and I implore you to remember that; all previous concerns about IC aside.

It has also only been 24 hours. Within hours of the incident there were already false reports of arrests and charges. Give this story time to unfold, allow the facts to surface, and consider the possibility for sensationalism and poor journalism.

Above all else, remember that this man who raised up leaders and inspired youth- he is also a father of two small children. Consider them and remember the value of restraint and grace as we discuss these events.