As I've watched events unfold in the Middle East over the last month, I've been reminded of a great TED lecture by Clay Shirky:
While his discussion is a bit dated - the November 2008 elections, China, etc - his points are fascinating, timely and prescient. As we saw in Iran last year and as we've just seen in Egypt and Tunisia, and now in Bahrain and Libya, social media has been integral to these revolutions.
More importantly, they have not just changed how we communicate, but they've empowered a generation. A generation less likely to be extremist. These revolutions have not been about extremist religious groups taking over, as in Iran in 1979, but the people challenging their governments to be more democratic, as in Poland and Eastern Europe in 1989.
And so, on the heels of Egypt, we have Wisconsin.
With a manufactured budgetary crisis, the Wisconsin governor has decided this is the time to break the unions. The Democrats in the state legislature have left the state rather than allow this legislation to pass. And the people have taken to the streets in Madison. Not a scheduled demonstration with a beginning time and an end time and designated location with designated clean-up. No. Just mass gatherings of people. Demanding that their government stop the madness.
This needs to happen more in the US.
In South Dakota, the country learned about an insane piece of legislation to redefine justifiable homicide to include homicide in the protection of the unborn. We learned about it through blogs, twitter and the new media. It became a national issue, not just a state issue. And the state has backed down.
In Congress, H.R. 539, "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act", added the language "forcible rape" in an attempt to limit abortion coverage. Through the new media, the country learned of this outrage and the language was removed. But that is not the end. No, the GOP taketh and the GOP giveth. They've now added language to the bill that allows hospitals to refuse to perform an abortion on a woman, even if that refusal threatens her life.
Now, the House has voted to suspend funding for Planned Parenthood. In part because of a poorly executed video "sting" operation a la James O'Keefe that has been shown to blatantly false. Still, truth matters less than the culture wars to the GOPers and their Tea Party brethren.
But there's more:
In Montana, a state representative has introduced legislation to overturn all local LGBT rights laws in the state and allow for discrimination on religious grounds.
In Wyoming, the state House passed a bill banning the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages.
In Georgia, state Representative Bobby Franklin has initiated a bill that would define abortion as murder and require the investigation of all spontaneous abortions to determine if there was an human interference. Now someone, usually Franklin, introduces a bill annually that would define abortion as murder in Georgia, but this year he's added the "Uterus Police", as the Daily Kos calls it.
The list goes on.
It's no coincidence that all of this legislation, whether federal or state, has been introduced and passed, in some cases, by Republicans. The GOP was elected on the platform of jobs. Since they can't affect the job situation, they've turned to the culture wars. In reality, it's clear to me that they told people what they wanted to hear and then proceeded to do as they really wanted - which is turn back the tide on women's rights and dismantle any progress made on LGBT rights.
There is a unifying theme in all of this legislation. If they could some how get it all passed, we'd be one step closer to a theocracy, which, I believe, is the ultimate goal.
It's past time that those of us in this country who have no desire to see this come to pass, step up. We need to blog, we need to tweet, we need to go to the streets and protest the insanity.
Otherwise, when the revolution comes, we will be silenced.