I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Aaron, but the story of his life and his speech on “Democracy Now” shook me to the core. I’ve been reflecting on the meaning of Aaron’s short life… his idealism, his brilliant fight against SOPA, and why the US government went after him so punitively.
I think that by making an example of Aaron, our government was actually sending a message to all of us – a message designed to elicit FEAR and keep us in line. This is also the government’s rationale for its harsh treatment/prosecution of Matthew Manning, John Kiriakou, Thomas Drake, Peter Van Buren, etc. In our own limited way, we must each become Aaron Swartz. We must become Matthew Manning… We must send a message to our government that we won’t surrender our civil liberties and lead fearful, circumspect lives. When I voted for Obama in 2008, I never dream that he would usher in a 1984 world, but this is happening in the guise of protecting Americans against terrorism, cyber criminals, copyright infringement, etc. The fact that a bright light like Aaron can be snuffed out suggests that our country is moving rapidly toward fascism, unless we do something to stop it. Aaron’s fight against SOPA showed us how to do this creatively, nonviolently, and successfully.
I hope a bit of Aaron’s spirit will live on in each of us.