Typically narcissistic blogging.

Lions and Tigers and Bears…and Legislation

SOPA and PIPA and NDAA (Oh, my).

So, while we know they will be back in some form or another, we have, for the moment, defeated SOPA and PIPA. The President signed the NDAA, which was adjusted so that American citizens could not be indefinitely detained, but now we have HR 3166/S. 1698, also known as the Enemy Expatriation Act (EEA), which allows the government to strip Americans of their citizenship if they are suspected of being hostile to the United States—without conviction. I’ve seen virtually nothing about EEA, anywhere, and the only people who seem to be fighting it are Anonymous (and people who follow Anonymous) and, God help us all, everybody’s favorite racist, homophobic, fundamentalists-are-too-liberal, pro-integration-of-church-and-state libertarian Ron Paul.

I have learned a couple of lessons from this whole experience in the fight against such legislation.

1. We have to work a lot harder at getting the word out about dangerous and damaging legislation.

I mean, a lot. A LOT. We internet denizens have got to stop bemoaning the fact that important news is no longer being featured in the news, stop trying to augment what isn’t there, and simply do our damnedest to replace it. Lots of people know this and have already acted on it, but we need more. It seems like a great number of people know this on at least a subconscious level right now. It’s time to make it conscious.

This includes:

  • Educating our friends, families, kids.
    My friend Rachel noticed a trend on the 18th, where informed adults trolled kids for not knowing what SOPA was. Give me a break, folks. They didn’t know what SOPA was because they are kids, and the adults around them were either uninformed or didn’t bother to inform them. Conversely, I heard of an entire class of 11-yr-olds that was deeply concerned. But it’s not just about letting them know that they need to be concerned. We need to make it clear to the people around us that the news being reported by the big news corporations is incomplete, that just because it isn’t being reported DOES NOT MEAN that it isn’t important, and that it’s time to pay some real attention to the other voices around them. And you may be reading this and thinking, “Well, I knew that.” Great! But what in the world makes you think the people around you, and the people around them also know it?
  • Following up.
    Posting links on Facebook is a great way of getting news out to the masses, but you don’t know who is reading, sharing, really paying attention. Follow up. I had to post about SOPA many, many times before I was able to galvanize even a handful of my friends into acting. Don’t confuse posting the occasional link with actually getting the information out there.
  • Making it personal, if you can.
    People were galvanized into action over SOPA/PIPA because the internet is precious to them. Because everybody, with the possible exception of the people making rulings and laws about it, uses the internet. Getting people to take action over an issue that doesn’t directly concern them is nearly impossible; when it comes to such political issues, people are happy to be lazy. “Don’t worry,” I have heard said far too many times, “If it’s really bad the Supreme Court will take care of it.” Right. Because SCOTUS just waves its nine wands and makes everything constitutional again. Yeah, well SCOTUS just ruled that creative works in the public domain can now be copyrighted again. Reminder: this is your SCOTUS right now.

I get that people are, politically, narcissists. If it isn’t obviously our fight, we don’t want to fight it. Hell, even if it is, we’d rather play video games and watch reality television than work to improve the world around us. I get that; honestly most days so would I. But a lot of what I am seeing is obviously our fight. And so…

2. We can’t stop fighting.

Yeah, we are all exhausted. We thought we’d have a break from all of this desperate fighting for our rights, and for legislation that is not based in fear and corporate interests when George W. Bush was replaced with Barack Obama. We thought we had won the battle, that we could rest on our laurels for a while. But much in the way soldiers who ought to have been allowed to come safely home from Iraq were sent back again and again to fight for their country, we don’t get a break. (And now that I have written that sentence I feel I should apologize; Occupy aside, most of us are fighting from the comforts of our homes. No less for the safety and sanctity of what we believe and for our country, but with—even in Oakland—fewer bullets, bombs, and breaking of bodies, spirits, and hearts.)

We are weary. I get it. Every time I see some new piece of legislation that scares the piss out of me, all I want to do is run to my bed and bury myself in the covers and pillows and never come out. But I don’t, because I love my country. I don’t love the way it is governed. I don’t love the all choices it makes. But I love my country, and I’m not ready to run from the challenge of trying to keep it from falling totally into fascist, corporate, or scary fundamentalist hands.

3. We can’t lose our sense of humor.

When times are dark, and we feel like our leadership is letting us down hard, and we are wondering what is going to become of this country, we cannot lose the light of humor. The more dour and unhappy we become, the more we need to laugh (and the less we will be heard, because nobody will want to listen). Quinn Norton pointed this out with regard to the protest against SOPA/PIPA. Humor is a fantastic tool in hooking interest and concern.

The thing is, taking action isn’t the most difficult thing any of you will ever do in this world, which is why I am so fascinated by people who refuse to do anything at all and let others do their fighting for them. In fact, it’s one of the easiest. It’s a phone call, an email, hitting “Share” on Facebook. It’s talking to your friends, informing your kids (so that they can inform their friends). Information has never stopped being power, and the internet is the most powerful tool we have to spread information right now. Since we have, for the time being, saved it from being broken, let’s enjoy it and remember, between videos of cats in boxes and porn o’clock, to hit the “Share” button.

5 responses

  1. Gwen

    For the love of all the gods, please keep writing and please keep this blog going. That paragraph at the end of item no. 2 articulates beautifully something I’ve been trying to say for years (I’ve said it, but nowhere near that concisely). I know you’ve thought periodically about not keeping up this blog – please know that I am reading, inspired, educated and touched by what you put out here.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    • As much as keeping this blog up is a source of both anxiety and stress to me, I have a problem, wherein I can’t stop posting to it. So I don’t think any of my handful of dedicated readers has to worry that I am going to disappear anytime soon.

      It’s good to know that what I am writing is being so well received. Thank you.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:50 pm

  2. Sam

    I heard about HR 3166 a while ago and did some research and I’m curious about your opinions on this from a purely legal perspective.

    What I’m curious about is that 8 USC 1481(a) says that one needs to both commit an act listed in that section *and* have the intention of relinquishing citizenship. The Supreme Court stated this in Afroyim v. Rusk in 1967 and upheld this view in Terrazas v. Rusk in 1980. The 14th Amendment bars any revocation of citizenship by an act of Congress unless the holder of citizenship agrees to its revocation.

    So is HR 3166 more bark than bite?

    January 20, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    • Sam

      And when I said Terrazas v. Rusk I meant Vance v. Terrazas (444 U.S. 252)

      January 20, 2012 at 6:58 pm

      • I guess it depends on how they interpret “voluntary.” I can already see the argument that committing an act that is hostile to the United States equals or at the very least implies voluntary relinquishment of citizenship, and I can see a court or three buying that argument, although I might also be extra pessimistic, especially with regard to the Roberts Court.

        I don’t know what the bark to bite ratio is on this one; if it gets passed and goes un-vetoed, we won’t really know until it hits SCOTUS. And, of course, it will.

        January 21, 2012 at 10:14 am

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