Saturday, January 19, 2013

Three gringo heroes for 2013

Research for my new novel, a Young Adult fantasy, greatly increased my connections to those under 30 (down to young teenagers) and made me realize the effects on younger Americans that our loss of civil rights, raped economy, global warming and military incursions into other countries has on them. I was repeatedly faced with disorientation, despair, depression and a sense of helplessness, themes that worked their way into my MS.

To describe the path those themes took requires elaboration I won't get into here. But instances of depression and the sense of helplessness prompt me to make readers aware of three gringos who all happen to be males: 41-year-old Julian Assange, 26-year-old Aaron Swartz (deceased) and 25-year-old Bradley Manning.

Below is info you can access if you're unfamiliar with them. All three were and are involved in Internet battles about our democratic right to information regarding our gov't, the world and its dissemination. This is relevant those who use the Internet, oppose any banning of books and want to protect rights once guaranteed by the Constitution.

I admire all three men. (I call them men even though I look at two of them and see faces of our children.) They were and are charged with a variety of crimes that they knowingly risked because of their beliefs. I think none considered himself a revolutionary in the style of Che, but each followed a path that his conscience dictated. The fact that they were all accused of being felons speaks more to the dismal direction of our gov't than it does to their maligned reputations.

One, Swartz, is dead, apparently from suicide. Assange is in asylum in London at the Ecuadorian Embassy. The other, Manning, is on trial in Fort Meade, MD. They face, faced and in the future will face charges that can lead to decades in prison, have been harassed (in Swartz's case, possibly contributing to his suicide), and one, Manning, has been tortured.

However some may disagree with me about the deeds, "threat," worth and punishment they involved themselves in, to me, all three exhibited bravery that deserve/deserved our support. Two were/are American, indicted by the country they tried to save.

In that sense, for young people who think their individual actions can't affect the black tides sweeping our nation, I say here are examples that speak to the contrary. No one has to aspire to be as brave as a Bradley or committed as a young, bright Swartz. They required fellow activists to leave their mark in history. You can click the links on these excerpts to read the entire piece. 

On Aaron Swartz

"Cyber activist and computer programmer Aaron Swartz took his life at the age of 26. Watch this address by Swartz from last May where he speaks about the battle to defeat the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA—a campaign he helped lead. "[SOPA] will have yet another name, and maybe a different excuse, and probably do its damage in a different way. But make no mistake: The enemies of the freedom to connect have not disappeared," Swartz said. "Next time they might just win. Let’s not let that happen."

An added article: "As a teenager, Swartz helped develop RSS, revolutionizing how people use the Internet, going on to co-own Reddit, now one of the world’s most popular sites. He was also a key architect of Creative Commons and an organizer of the grassroots movement to defeat the controversial House Internet censorship bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and the Senate bill, the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). Swartz hanged himself just weeks before the start of a controversial trial.

He was facing up to 35 years in prison for sneaking into MIT and downloading millions of articles provided by the subscription-based academic research service JSTOR. "Aaron Swartz is now an icon, an ideal. He is what we will be fighting for, all of us, for the rest of our lives." Swartz’s parents claim that decisions made by prosecutors and MIT contributed to his death, saying: "This was somebody who was pushed to the edge by what I think of as a kind of bullying by our government."

"The U.S. Army private accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, has testified for the first time since he was arrested in May 2010. Speaking at a pretrial proceeding, Manning revealed the emotional tumult he experienced while imprisoned in Kuwait after his arrest in 2010, saying, "I remember thinking, ’I’m going to die.’ I thought I was going to die in a cage."

As part of his testimony, Manning stepped inside a life-sized chalk outline representing the six-by-eight-foot cell he was later held in at the Quantico base in Virginia, and recounted how he would tilt his head to see the reflection of a skylight through a tiny space in his cell door. Manning could face life in prison if convicted of the most serious of 22 counts against him. He has offered to plead guilty to a subset of charges that potentially carry a maximum prison term of 16 years.

"What’s remarkable is that he still has this incredible dignity after going through this. All these prison conditions indicate they were angry at Bradley Manning, but in the face of that psychiatric statement, this guy shouldn’t be kept on suicide risk or POI, they’re still keeping him in inhuman conditions. You can only ask yourself—they’re trying to break him for some reason. Lawyer David Coombs has said it’s so that he can give evidence against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks."

In his most extended interview in months, Julian Assange speaks from inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he has been holed up for six months. Assange vowed WikiLeaks would persevere despite attacks against it. On Tuesday, the European Commission announced that the credit card company Visa did not break the European Union’s antitrust rules by blocking donations to WikiLeaks. "Since the blockade was erected in December 2010, WikiLeaks has lost 95 percent of the donations that were attempted to be transferred to us over that period. ... Our rightful and natural growth, our ability to publish as much as we would like, our ability to defend ourselves and our sources, has been diminished by that blockade."

Assange also speaks about his new book, "Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet." "The mass surveillance and mass interception that is occurring to all of us now who use the internet is also a mass transfer of power from individuals into extremely sophisticated state and private intelligence organizations and their cronies." Assange also discusses the United States’ targeting of WikiLeaks. "The Pentagon is maintaining a line that WikiLeaks inherently, as an institution that tells military and government whistleblowers to step forward with information, is a crime. They allege we are criminal, moving forward," Assange says. "Now, the new interpretation of the Espionage Act that the Pentagon is trying to hammer in to the legal system, and which the Department of Justice is complicit in, would mean the end of national security journalism in the United States."

Es todo, hoy,


bloodmother said...

I like rebels, too, Rudy, and these guys were cyber rebels in a positive way. Not creating a virus hoax, but freedom of information. The thing about freedom, though, and information, is that it's a big responsibility.

Thelma T. Reyna said...

I'm not knowledgeable about Aaron Swarz, but I was sad and moved by his suicide. Suicide is always a tragic thing, especially when it's a young person who takes that path. I wish he'd decided otherwise. Regarding the others: We'll never know what was truly in the depths of their hearts, what their full motives were. I hope that the truth wins all cases.