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.
- 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.
Right now, liberally-minded people are in a bit of a bind, because we are stuck between a weak and a crazy place. Seems to me, the political picture looks a bit like this:
Part of the issue, of course, is that right now the two primary parties in this country have largely forgotten themselves—who they are and why they even exist. They’ve become lost in the mire that is politics, and right now the viable candidates for both have failed to impress. The Republicans are stronger, because they have no problem breaking the rules and salting the earth to get what they want out of political negotiations, and the Democrats are less terrifying, but seem to accomplish virtually nothing in comparison. Also, right now the candidates for the parties fall somewhere on these respective spectra:
(Click on them if the blurring is as irritating to you as it is to me)
So, what to do?
I’ve seen three solutions to the problem:
1. Vote for Obama anyway.
2. Vote for Ron Paul.
3. Vote some other third party and stick it to the 2-party system.
If I leave the first option alone, since I already discussed Obama here, and pretend that people aren’t seriously considering the racist, homophobic, anti-EPA, pro-religion in schools, anti-separation of church and state wingnut that is Ron Paul (discussed beautifully and thoroughly, with sources, here), I still have to consider the third.
If a third party were to come up with a strong candidate—one with actual political experience, one who knows how the system works and can be strong within it, and one with enough charisma to carry a country, now would be the time. This country is filled with people who are disgruntled, angry, depressed, and disappointed. If ever there were a time to vote outside the two-party system, it’s now.
But here is why I don’t buy the third party argument, and I am
plagiarizingexpanding on a reply I gave to thoughtful commenter Dana:
Let’s pretend we have a viable third-party candidate (we don’t). I still seriously doubt the option, because everybody who is disgruntled with the current situation would have to do it. The only way to make that statement is to get everybody (or at least a majority) to sign onto it and proudly and publicly so that other people won’t worry about being castigated or ridiculed for throwing votes away. Unless they vote for Nader, because, duh.
Every time somebody brings up a third party option, it’s like we are daring each other to break the mold, but ultimately we all know that not enough people will take up the dare and go with it, and that if not enough people take the dare, everybody will get hurt.
I would love for my country to prove me wrong on this, but my pessimism is getting the better of me.
So, people who insist that voting for a third party is the answer to all of our problems: How about finding a viable third-party candidate who is strong enough to make people consider voting outside of the two party system, and if you think you have such a candidate, do you know a feasible† solution to getting enough people to vote for them without simply handing the election to a party that appears to be actively trying to destroy our country?
†By “feasible” I mean, “will actually work.”
ETA: There’s no good answer for the 2012 elections forthcoming, so I am putting forth my own third-party candidate:
Note: Beyonce + “Knock Knock, Motherfucker” belong to The Bloggess (if you haven’t read the relevant blog post, because you live under a rock in a barn in a cave in TibeChinAfrica, it’s here). The godawful Photoshop job is all me. Yeah, baby.