1/20/12 – The Day We Took Our Country Back

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few days, you know by now that our country’s Senators and Congressmen have come under enormous pressure regarding the proposed SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act – HR.3621) and PIPA (Protect IP Act – S.968) bills.

I’m not going to go into the details of these bills (enough has been written elsewhere) other than to say that like many, I believe that better laws need to be crafted to thwart piracy but both SOPA/PIPA are completely over-reaching and at their core are essentially censorship bills (largely underwritten by large media companies and their lobbyists) that would be catastrophic if passed.

Yesterday, millions of Americans took to the internet to voice their displeasure. Thousands of companies blacked out their websites and millions of individuals did the same to their social media avatars and urged their friends and colleagues to contact their delegates to protest these bills. Here in Idaho, my friends in the tech and knowledge communities rallied and deluged our four delegates offices with phone calls, emails, and personal visits. We started the day with two of our delegates supporting the bills (including one who was a co-sponsor) and two undecided. By the end of the day, we had two opposed and two undecided, and this morning we’re at three opposed and one undecided. At the national level, support for both bills folded like a house of cards. Senators and Congressman dropped their support in droves.

And so it goes. This morning, Senaotor Harry Reid, author of the PIPA bill, released this statement via Twitter.

When I saw this, the hair stood up on the back of my neck.  In just 24 hours, we witnessed Americans mobilize and drastically influence important public policy, from their laptops and phones! 

Like most parents I know, I fret over the world we’re leaving our kids. Education, climate, jobs, healthcare all seem to be going in the wrong direction. Today though, I have a renewed sense of optimism for the future. Today the people have spoken and our leaders were forced to listen. If it could work in this instance, it can work for all of these other important issues.

Last night, my 6th grade son came home and asked me “if I knew what was going on with SOPA”, and “if I knew that Google was going to be shut down if SOPA happens.” We sat down and had a long chat about it during dinner. I brought my laptop to our family dinner and played some videos for both of my children showing them what these bills are and how it could effect them. It was a tremendous conversation and I was gratified as a parent to see their intellectual curiosity. I’m sure conversations like ours were going on at dinner tables all over the country last night.

Our work is not done. The supporters of PIPA and SOPA are motivated and extremely well-funded. We need to keep pressure on our country’s leaders to craft legislation which addresses the need to control piracy without trampling on the freedom of speech that makes America so very unique and the envy of the rest of the world.

I wasn’t around (my mother was pregnant with me) when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed, but I was around the day that Ronald Reagan urged Gorbachev to “tear down this wall” and for me, today feels just as significant as those seminal moments. For me, I’ll remember today as the day we took our country back. I’m more optimistic about the future than I have been in a long, long time.

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