Today, I participated in an on-line protest against two pieces of legislation (SOPA and PIPA) that go too far in trying to combat Internet privacy by blacking out my blog for twelve hours and by modifying my on-line profile. Although much of what I write is on some level political, I do not generally take such partisan positions in connection to my writing and teaching.
I also participated a discussion initiated by my friend, the Reverend David Grant Smith when he wrote in Facebook, “I’m not seeing a connection between stopping internet piracy and censorship….” Throughout the day, David struggled to understand the position that some of us were taking again the legislation; legislation that–on the surface–seems to be good.
Culturally, it is very difficult for us to admit that we do not understand something; that we are not seeing the connections that others are making. How many times have I not spoken up in the past when I did not understand something? How often do my students not speak up?
When someone like the Reverend is able to publicly voice his lack of understanding and to query others for help, it can give permission for others to follow his example. This is especially true given the civil discussion that took place. Nobody called David an idiot or tried to force their opinion on him. Instead, those of us who responded to his query simply stated why the legislation was a concern to us and what we thought he was missing. For example, I began my initial response with the observation, “What you are missing is that the law over reaches and could be prone to abuse” before providing more detail and a link where he could find additional information.
Throughout the day, my friend struggled to understand the reason why we were concerned about the proposed legislation and he continued to ask questions. He struggled but kept moving forward. By the end of the day he posted, ” I heard yet another story earlier this evening that helped me to understand what you all have been saying to me throughout the day.”
To me, it is not so important whether or not David came to the same conclusion about SOPA that I hold. What is important is that he took the time to understand my concerns. That is powerful ministry–to use a term from David’s profession–or pedagogy–to use a term from mine.
SOPA Protest Caused Inconvenience/Laughter
As the day began, while chatting with a colleague, I complained that some websites I wanted to show in class today had been blacked out. Then, I told him that they were websites I controlled. We shared a laugh. I observed, “It’s inconvenient, but I guess that’s the point.
As part of their homework assignment assignment due today, students had to print out three blog postings. During class, a student told me that he did not have a printer at home. When he went to the library before class to print out the material he desired, “Someone had blacked out the site.” He knew full well that it was me who had done so. We shared a laugh about “those folk who blacked out their sites.” (FYI: The student supports the blackout and had already written to his Member of Congress and Senators to express his concern.)