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Waking the Beast

January 19, 2012

Now that the dust has settled, let’s talk about what really happened yesterday.  Sure, a few politicians backed down from SOPA and PIPA.  Yes, the protest caused the Senate websites to crash.  Yes, hundreds of high school and college students suddenly got a hard lesson in just how much Wikipedia means to their continued education success.  But what REALLY happened?

People woke up.  Millions of people, driven by the concentrated efforts of activist and non-activist websites alike, took a few minutes to tell their representative how they felt.  People woke up and sent an e-mail.  People woke up and were really active in politics, many of them for the very first time in their lives.  People woke up, focused their gaze on a single cause, and Congress blinked.

I am too much of a cynic to believe that this single protest will push forward lasting political change in this country.  But I am enough of an optimist to believe that We The People are like a sleeping beast.  Poke the beast enough, and even if half of it goes back to sleep, the other half can still drive the creature forward.  I am too much of a cynic to believe that the direction the beast goes will be in the direction that I personally want.  But I am enough of an optimist to believe that this protest has had a single positive change that I do want.

People have seen just how easy it is to contact their representative.  They have seen just how easy it is to add their voice to the process.  They now understand the power of their contribution, no matter how small.  And it is my hope that even if half of those people decide to go back to their lives and never speak to their representative again, the other half will join in with those of us who have been awake all along and help move this beast forward.

I don’t know where we’re going from here.  But we’re moving forward with more power than we have before.  And that’s a start.

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