Editors’ note: These views are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of BU Culture Shock and its staff.
Tonight marks the seventh night of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. For eight days, Jews across the world light candles to commemorate Nes Gadol, the Great Miracle. Legend has it that the Maccabees rebelled against the Greeks, who at that time ruled Jerusalem. After successfully fighting them off, the Maccabees returned to the temple to find it ransacked. The Ner Tamid, the eternal candle which once burned so brightly, was extinguished. Searching high and low throughout the temple, they found the oil needed to light the candle for one day. Making more oil would take eight days, at which point the flame would once again die out, plunging them back into darkness. Miraculously, the one day of oil kept the candle lit for eight days, allowing the Maccabees to make enough oil so the candle would remain lit. In honor of this great miracle, we light candles for eight days, eat fried foods, and sing about bringing light into the world.
Why did the Maccabees fight back against the Greek rulers administering the land? A Greek edict had banned the Jews from practicing their religion. Torah study and praying were forbidden. They were effectively being censored, shut out from doing that which defined them. Study was relegated to dark rooms and secrecy.
Today, we face our own edict of censorship. Two bills making their way through Congress right now, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA), threaten to fundamentally change the internet as we know it. These bills shift the balance of power from the people to corporations and the government. With SOPA and PIPA, the government can effectively erase a website from the Internet, scrubbing clean all traces of the URL and even forcing the removal of search engine links to the site.
Ostensibly, this bill is designed to help protect a company’s copyrights. It is aimed at file sharing sites, many of which are located outside the US and therefore out of its jurisdiction. However, the power these bills allow extend beyond simple infringement. Any site linking to a possible offender is automatically at risk of going dark itself. These bills provide no recourse for the site owners to fight back. They don’t even have to be notified before the site gets taken down.
Like the Maccabees of yore, it’s time to take a stand. The only way to fight this is to speak out against them before they silence your voice. SOPA is up for vote in January, and right now it looks like it will pass. Call your senators and congressmen and tell them you care. Tell them it’s bad. Tell them to vote no.
“Everyone’s a small light, and we are all a strong light,” we sing. “Fight darkness and more blackness. Fight because of the light.” This is the time to fight. Let us banish the darkness.