Aaron Swartz, R.I.P.

Today is for mourning the death of Aaron Swartz, if you knew him, or for simply despairing — if you did not — the news of his suicide after having been bullied by the US government through a prosecution that might have resulted in 30+ years of imprisonment for him.  His story will be easy for you to find, as it is being told across the internet by those who knew, admired and loved him, so I won’t recount the details here.  I will just refer to one blog post by Larry Lessig which is available here: http://t.co/jSgrR52U and which includes this reflection:

[Aaron] is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you.

For remember, we live in a world where the architects of the financial crisis regularly dine at the White House — and where even those brought to “justice” never even have to admit any wrongdoing, let alone be labeled “felons.”

A strange thought occurred to me, reading Lessig’s words … because I’ve also lately been following on Twitter the outpouring of reaction to the NRA and the “gunners” (in Kurt Eichenwald’s phrase) who seek to justify the massive arms presence in this country by evoking the possibility of the common man having to take a stand against the government. 

Set aside for an instant your recognition of how ridiculous a proposition this actually is; because while a gun would never be my choice to settle anything, when I read the story of Aaron Swartz being bullied and threatened with essentially the rest of his life in prison over his release of copyrighted documents to the public, I can, if only for a moment, understand where the gunners are coming from. 

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