Today brought a dramatic conclusion to an extraordinary week and the culmination of months of amazing activism on PIPA/SOPA. A month ago, hardly anyone had heard of PIPA and a few more had heard of SOPA and its passage was regarded as virtually assured. Today, Harry Reid (D-NV) finally threw in the towel and called off Tuesday’s scheduled cloture vote. In the House, Lamar Smith and Marsha Blackburn, the last SOPA holdouts, threw in the towel and promised to go back to drawing board and totally rework their approach. Yes, the ill-grace with which the chief Democratic architects of PIPA in the Senate have responded, coupled with Chris Dodd’s increasing resemblance to Muppet Movie villain Tex Richman by openly threatening on Fox News to stop campaign contributions to any politician who didn’t keep pushing PIPA, make it clear PIPA’s sponsors (in both the legislative and financial sense) are as utterly unrepentant as they are in common sense. So yes, they will come back and try again and all the usual caveats that responsible people seem compelled to add to any moment of real triumph.
To which I say, feh. We can celebrate until at least Monday. No, we have hardly solved all the problems of our democracy, or even prevented the Entertainment industry from coming back to try again. However, “the work is not for you to finish, but nor are you free to set it aside.” (Pirkei Avot 2:21) Or, in the words of Matthew 6:34: “sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” It would be a poor world indeed where no victory is every enough, where all we see when we look ahead are the challenges and all we see when we look behind are our defeats. So let us celebrate with a whole heart, because in a mere 3 days we accomplished something wonderful.
My colleague Michael Weinberg has written this blog post about how the world of Washington has changed and what comes next. But that is not what I am talking about.
We have shown the world that government of the people, by the people, and for the people HAS NOT perished from the Earth. As described in this article, as the debate on PIPA/SOPA unfolded, the mood in China as documented in their blogosphere and Twitter equivalent shifted from schadenfreude (“The Great Firewall turns out to be a visionary product; the American government is trying to copy it”) to envy of our democratic process (with one user asking during the SOPAStrike: “Baidu, would you do something like this?”) America became once again, for at least one shining moment, a beacon of hope and democracy to the world.
The changing the arc of PIPA/SOPA from “unstoppable” to “dead” was no small thing. Whatever comes after, we should look with pride on what we have collectively done and remember in our hearts that when we move together, we are strong. The next time someone cynical tells you that you’re wasting your time with this ‘civic engagement’ stuff because the rich will always rig the game, remember the January 18-20, 2012 and smile. Don’t try to explain. The cynical won’t believe and will have all manner of sensible explanations for what “really” happened and why what we did didn’t “really” make a difference.
So I’m reaching deep into my roots as an old member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) and a Member of the Order of the Pearl of the Kingdom of Atlantia. I wrote a victory poem in the Anglo-Saxon style. It felt good.
A boon I beg/ Oh Best of Skalds
This day our foes/ Though Fierce and feared
Sounded surrender/ Sent back to their Meadhalls
PIPA and SOPA/ Punished like Thralls
Traitorus Counselors/ Cursed and confounded
Hail to the Heroes/ Who Honored their oaths
Spurning red gold/ Given to oathbreakers
Grant them wordfame/ Workers of staves
That hearts shall take heed/ That heroes still triumph
Tell them oh Skalds/ School them in virtue
Lest warriors weary/ Like women in labor*
Tremble and weep/ When the time comes for war
* Isaiah 13:8
Stay tuned . . . .