There are two things I’d like to address in this message; legislative awareness/activity and responsibility.
Let’s start with a troubling recent trend: SOPA. To be completely honest, I immediately went to Wikipedia.org to make sure I know what I’m talking about when I decided to write about the Stop Online Piracy Act. To my understanding, the spirit of the law was to extensively penalize those who engage in illegal online activities such as sharing copyrighted media. The law seeks to expand the penalties for such actions to prohibit web-based entities from doing business with online violators of the copyright policies. (You’ll be happy to read that I knew this prior to my Wikipedia search.)
IN LAYMAN’S TERMS (or, metaphorically speaking), pretend I am a distributor of child porn. (Which I’m not; as a mother of 3, I see way too much child nudity to willingly engage in it during my “spare time”.) However, because selling child porn is illegal – and immoral, but let’s save that for another day – I run a stationary shop selling legitimate magazines, books, candy, etc. Under this type of legislation, any person who comes into my shop and makes a purchase is supporting my illegal enterprise, therefore subject to penalties as though that person voluntarily participated in the production and distribution of child porn. Any person who finds out that I’m doing this – say, peeks through the cracked door in the back while browsing for discounted chips – and reports me won’t face legislative action for purchasing the expired chips anyway.
I hope that example did more than just enrich our collective imagination.
The actual, arguably insidious, potential of the bill is widespread fear-mongering across the internet. As a small business owner, my husband is potentially liable for the actions of a video-streaming service that advertises on his website (for instance). A person who posts a homemade video – lyrics and magazine pictures – to the newest Justin Bieber song on YouTube is imprisoned (which is actually appropri….never mind). Anyone here experienced enough to remember Napster, raise your hand!!!
Let’s cut to the well-intentioned if misinformed chase here. THE INTERNET IS THREATENED! THE INTERNET WILL BE SHUT DOWN! NO MORE INTERNET! EVER! BOYCOTT! GO DARK! WRITE YOUR CONGRESSMAN! BETTER YET, CALL YOUR CONGRESSMAN!
All of which has contributed to a massive demonstration of the true power of a democratic nation. Teenagers who can’t remember a land before blinkx and vidtomp3.com are saying, “WTF is SOPA???” (And subsequently writing their congressmen? Doubtful.) But people ARE writing their elected officials. People are publically vilifying their elected officials on social networking sites, posting link after uninspired link, quoting celebrities ranting about the freedom of speech, and generally getting right into the mix.
Which is awesome, and I’m not downing that at all. Any action that gets typically apathetic Americans to own their political system and really work it, as opposed to sitting around drinking beer and bitching about it while watching the bug zapper work, is fine by me.
“If you’re so fine with it, why are you writing this post?”
Okay, since you asked so politely, I’ll tell you.
Where are you, newly-enraged, self-righteous American, when abortion rights are being legislated? Everyone has an opinion about it, so why haven’t you voiced yours? Does it make you uncomfortable, owning up to the responsibility for unborn life when it puts you in opposition to your family and friends? Is it too hard to look at pictures of babies and say women should have the right to choose what happens to their bodies? Do you not even trust and believe your own heart?
Where are you, espouser of equality and the “American way”, when an integral part of our American heritage is being threatened in legislative sessions across the country as part of a move to curb collective bargaining? Are you making fair, rational, balanced suggestions to your legislators to move the role of unions into the next logical evolutionary step? Are you writing letters to the newspaper about how unions have faded into oblivion and need to be dismantled completely? Have you researched the differences between professional and labor unions and looked into how they operate? When you malign fair share laws, do you hold the union leaders responsible for their existence or are you aware that it’s a law having little to do with the specific union itself?
Where are you, enlightened parent waiting for Superman, when education reform is being proposed? Doing the research, putting your kids in public school, and showing the nation that you believe in the future of America and her children? Did you join the PTA? Did you volunteer for the events at your child’s school past the elementary level? Do you check your kid’s homework, or just ask whether it was done and assume the wily teen is being honest? Are you quicker to ask what Johnny learned in school today or for a display of his new-found karate skills? Do you even realize that most private school teachers are retired public educators, the same public educators you disparage online and in conversations with your similarly-enlightened parent friends? Or that the teachers in charter schools are prepared the exact same way as public school teachers, and often come directly from public schools?
When more people vote for the next American Idol than for the American President, are you doing more than shaking your head at this “troubling statistic”?
On which side of the battlefield would you have stood in 1861? Where would you have been when women were fighting for the right to vote? Where would you have been when blacks were fighting for the right to be recognized as human?
Would you have been sitting quietly at home, waiting for it all to pass, waiting for someone else to fight this fight?
We all know the quote by Martin Niemöller regarding the passivity of German intellectuals during the Nazi rise to power prior to WWII: “First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak out because I was Protestant. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
I’m done being silent. (No comments on my history of silence, or lack thereof, from the peanut gallery.) I resolve to work on finding and promoting fair, balanced, research-based suggestions for my elected officials at the state and federal levels to support my opinions and ideas. I will back my emotions with facts, acknowledge if not appreciate the “other side”, and live as I believe. I will openly reject situations I find repellant, and I will eviscerate sweeping generalities and illogical assumptions. I will accept the rights others have to their own opinions and respectfully ask that others do the same for me. I will not tolerate condescension, and I will always, always, always fight for fair treatment of all individuals, even if it means the treatment isn’t equal.
Will you stand with me, even if it means sometimes standing against me? I welcome you, worthy friend and opponent.