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Jabari Zakiya [opinions]

The State of the Union of FOSS [free-software] [power] [state-of-union]

Confidential White House sources have leaked to me a secretly included draft section of the President’s State of the Union address. These sources suspect that the Free Software Foundation (FSF), a suspected terrorist group, somehow gained access to the speech and included this section. It was purportedly caught at the last moment by a staffer who was literate enough to understand what she was reading. I release this copy of the rejected section, exposing myself to potentially grave peril, as a public service to our readers.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I stand before you and my fellow countrymen and say to you the state of the union of FOSS is good. To be sure, there are challenges ahead, and obstacles to overcome, but the inexorable tide of history is on our side. We have passed the worst. For first they ignored us, then they laughed at and derided us, but now they must fight us, and in the end, we will win.

For the purveyors of proprietary software do not believe in freedom. They do not want to unleash the potential of computing power for the benefit of all mankind, so that we can harness it, and apply it to raise the quality of life for all humanity worldwide. No, they want you tied to their nipples, addicted to software you mostly don’t need, and can’t change, which you must wait in anticipation for their next upgrade, for the next fix to fix, which never fulfills you like that first naive exhilarating hit.

My fellow Americans, I stand before you, a righteous warrior, and occasional coder, but always a dedicated user of free software. Yes I, like many of you, remember the days when you had to carry around your own Live CD, to surreptitiously load on your computer at work, or at school, in order to use free software to make your job easier.

I too remember the days when you were forced to buy computers with proprietary software, that you couldn’t fix when it broke, or legally share with your friends and family, that you paid through the nose to use, and then were forced to pay to upgrade because of planned obsolescence. Yes, the tyranny of restrictive licenses and EULAs once ruled the software landscape, making us indentured servants to the commercializers of proprietary software.

But the flame of freedom burns bright within the human spirit. And as the yoke of slavery, once considered normal by many, and legally protected by the mechanisms of commerce and government, eventually succumbed to the forces of justice and freedom, so too shall the scourge of proprietary software.

But the forces of proprietary software are powerful, and power concedes nothing without a demand. And, thus, we must continue our fight, and fight we will. We will fight them on the land, we will fight them in the sea and air, and in the chat rooms and blogs. We will fight them in the courts, and the Congress, and the trade shows, in space and on MySpace. We will fight them wherever the battles requires. But we fight them now knowing we are no longer on the defensive, we are taking the battles to them.

Yes, we are in the ascendancy and they are in decline. Their numbers dwindle daily. They tried to derail us in the courts, claiming infringement of their patents, but now stand on the brink of bankruptcy. Their campaigns of FUD have backfired, to the point where they must seek Trojan Horse alliances with some of us, but we will not be fooled. Once a snake, always a snake!

We have the great GIMP, and the nimble Firefox, the ubiquitous Apache, and the stoic Samba. We have OpenOffice and Amarok, KDE and Gnome, Perl, Python, PHP, and Ruby. They must use our MySQL to store their data, and Bittorent to exchange it, and OpenSSH to secure it. From the server to the desktop, from the laptop to the PDA, we rule with the mighty GNU/Linux, and the BSDs.

Though we have made great strides during the year, we must continue to act with umoja, for with unity we can most efficiently grow and prosper, and ward off the last desperate assaults of the agents of proprietary software. For they will likely burn their last dollar to defeat a movement that can’t be beaten by money, than to change their ways, and embrace a path to shared prosperity.

So I leave you now this evening confident with the knowledge that generations hence forth can hear my words encoded in .ogg audio and read the transcript of this address from .odt files. For I have a dream, that one day the world will embrace the full power, spirit, and hope of the free software movement, and extend it to the full realm of human endeavors, and end forever the hoarding of resources, the restriction of information and knowledge, and the proliferation of misery.

So I say to you my fellow countrymen, ask not what free software can do for you, ask what you can do for free software. You may not be able to code, but you can do something. File bug reports, pass out free CDs, write documentation, or blogs, or donate money. But most importantly, proudly (and loudly) use free and open source software wherever and whenever you can, and show the skeptics, and educate the ignorant, that FOSS is here to stay, and is growing.

May the FOSS be with you.


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