It’s time for me to write a very few words about Aaron Swartz.
When he died back in January, I didn’t write anything. I didn’t know him, but other writers did and they were busy grieving and sharing memories of him online and in print. The amount of love expressed for him was overwhelming.
I wanted to contribute my “two cents worth” to the dialog and comment on the politics that led to this young man so tragically taking his own life, but I kept quiet because I didn’t want to distract from the beautiful portrait that was being painted of him using the written word as a medium.
I didn’t know much about him then. I know much more now.
From the portrait that’s been drawn of him by his friends and loved ones, I recognize him as a kindred spirit. I see in him the same sort of love for his fellow man that was part and parcel with people from my generation involved with “the movement,” the counter-culture which is always discredited and reduced by mainstream media to mere hippiedom or “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.”
I have no doubt that if young Mr. Swartz had been around in the late 1960s, he would’ve been one of those wonderful people to whom all men were brothers and all women were sisters. Indeed, I think we could claim him as one of us in spite of the fact that he came of age in the 21st century, born nearly twenty years after the Summer of Love. Most of our beliefs were, and are, timeless you know.
This morning I received an email from Aaron Swartz’ father, Bob Swartz. It was a politically motivated mass email sent by Demand Progress. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way. I get a lot of such emails, from organizations like MoveOn and Common Cause. I get so many that I don’t usually open them. There seems to be a lot of issues facing our country these days.
Obviously, because I’m writing this, I opened the email from Bob Swartz. After reading it, I’ve decided to pass it on, which is not something I make a habit of doing on this site. In the email, there were three calls to action using the same link, of which I’ve removed all but one:
Over the past five months, I have been heartened to see the memory of my son galvanizing such a powerful movement for change. I can tell you, it’s what Aaron would have wanted.
It has been your efforts that have led some lawmakers to pursue an investigation of Aaron’s vindictive, cruel and disproportionate prosecution. When the Justice Department appeared before the Judiciary Committee to discuss Aaron’s case, Senators Patrick Leahy, John Cornyn, and Al Franken all pushed for answers. And for that they deserve thanks.
At the request of these senators, the Department of Justice recently briefed Senate Judiciary Committee staffers on their prosecution of Aaron–but more questions remain.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: my son was destroyed by a system and prosecutors that still don’t understand the nature of what they did.
They destroyed my son by their callousness and inflexibility.
The work of changing that system–of getting answers to our unanswered questions about Aaron’s prosecution–remains before us.
For now, it’s important that those lawmakers who’ve already joined our cause know that we are thankful, and that we will continue to stand with them as they use their power to hold the DOJ to account and seek justice for Aaron.
Click here to join me in thanking them for pursuing the investigation, and let them know that we’ll stand with them as they keep pressing forward.
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I’m sorry I never got a chance to meet Aaron Swartz. I know I would’ve liked him. If there is a positive to be found in his death, it’s that it can remind us that we’re not quite yet the great democratic republic we all want us to be.