August 17, 2003 · Lessig
When I was growing up, Dennis Kucinich was something of a political hero. I was in high school when he was elected mayor of Cleveland — the youngest mayor of a major city ever. I was also very involved politically. I say “something” of a hero, though, because then I was then a right-wing loon (chairman of the Pennsylvania Teen-Age Republicans, youngest member of a delegation at the 1980 GOP convention). I admired his drive and strength of character; I had little patience for his politics.
I’ve grown-up a bit in the last 25 years. I’m now, well, not a right-wing loon, and now not at all involved politically. But I am still an admirer of Dennis Kucinich — indeed, now more than ever. I don’t (yet?) buy the anti-free trade stuff. But his is a powerful and right voice in this amazing election.
I am of course a bit biased by his embrace of Creative Commons — which has been a part of his blog from the start. But the test for me is always character, and the measure of character for me is whether someone can say what’s right, regardless of consequence, just because he believes it is right.
This is Edwards defending affirmative action in North Carolina; this is Dean opposing he war. This is Kucinich, here and elsewhere, articulating views that he believes right, whether or not they are views that will win him favor.
The post about Gilmore was the example here. I have been astonished by the debate around that event. It made me realize how that there are two sorts of people out there when it comes to civil rights. The question that divides us is not whether we believe in civil rights — obviously, everyone (interesting) does. The question is how we believe in civil rights. (1) One sort believes that when someone else acts — either intentionally or carelessly — to infringe a right, it is right (or even maybe a duty) of the person whose rights have been wronged to defend the right regardless of consequence. (2) Another sort believes that when someone else acts — at least carelessly — to infringe a right, the right thing to do is to decide whether, all things considered, it makes sense to defend the right.
Type two sorts are the majority of us. We’re the “reasonable” ones. Apple doesn’t make commercials about us. We do what everyone would. I’m sure in the right context, I would have to fight all of my instincts to resist being a type two sort. There have been a couple times in my life when I have succeeded, but just a few.
Gilmore is type one — in this context, and many others. (He once, for example, scolded my wife for inviting him to a party with an Evite because it was wrong, he believed, to demand he give up his privacy just to respond to an invitation.) And while I don’t agree with the underlying values that he sometimes pushes (for example, I not only thought it wrong for him to scold my wife, I think Evite is great), I do admire the ability to be type one in a world of type two’s — especially when I agree with the underlying value (as I do w/r/t the British Airways incident).
Thus, I agree with Kucinich, Gilmore is a patriot. At a time when reasonableness by those in power must be taught, his was a patriot’s act (unlike the other Patriot Act). And I admire Kucinich’s willingness to say that here — in a space where some of the most well reasoned contributors (and some others as well) have strongly taken the other view. This is the (only) part of Reagan I continue to admire; it is the part of Kucinich I increasingly admire; it is the part in these candidates we should all respect: the willingness to say what’s right, regardless of consequence.
Thank you, Congressman, for taking time in this space. And thank you for the character of your campaign.