June 19, 2004

Juneteenth: It's all about freedom

Author: Joe Barr

June 19 -- long known in Texas simply as Juneteenth -- is a unique state holiday. It's the anniversary of the day in 1865 when General Gordon Granger landed in Galveston, Texas, and read aloud the Emancipation Proclamation, two and a half years after it should have taken effect. Although General Lee had surrendered a couple of months earlier, there were simply not enough Union troops present prior to General Granger's arrival to enforce the proclamation.

The opening words of the proclamation that were read that first Juneteenth are strong and clear. Reading those words today, you can see why the slaves felt them important enough to commemorate with a holiday:

Whereas on the 22nd day of September, A.D. 1862, a proclamation
was issued by the President of the United States, containing,
among other things, the following, to wit:

That on the 1st day of January, A.D. 1863, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the executive
government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

Celebrated annually for more than a hundred years as a "folk holiday" rather than an official one, Juneteenth finally became an official state holiday in 1979 when June 19 was declared "Emancipation Day In Texas." Today there will be parades, picnics, speeches, and -- this is Texas, after all -- BBQ cookoffs all over the state.

Freedom is the bottom line

I'm partial to freedom, for myself and for others. I don't mean in any way to diminish the horrific condition of slavery that many endured prior to the Emancipation Proclamation, but there are more than a couple of similarities between the slaves in Texas and the bondage that many Windows customers find themselves in today, like the fact that both were freed long before they knew it.

Abraham Lincoln didn't write a proclamation of freedom for Windows users, but Richard Stallman did. Union troops led by General Granger haven't shown up to make Microsoft customers aware of the proclamation, but Linus Torvalds and free software hackers around the world have. Thanks to them, most Windows users can enjoy freedom from proprietary software today simply by switching to GNU/Linux.

Most Windows users continue to cling to their familiar platform, some because it's easier to stick with the familiar, and some because they are ignorant of the fact that they have a viable alternative.

Corrupt government officials here in the United States and elsewhere become willing participants in Microsoft's abuses. Why bother fixing the software when the contract selection process can be fixed to prevent free software from competing? Why pay any attention to antitrust law when political campaign contributions result in the punishment for violating them strengthening the monopoly? Why let the truth about Microsoft and free software reach the masses when it is so easy to hire astroturfers? It's easier to fund some feebleminded buffoon to slime Linux and the GPL.

Instead of honesty and integrity, sponsor the publication of phony benchmarks and rigged studies based on bogus TCO scenarios. Then use them all in a massive antitruth campaign and call it "Get the facts on Windows and Linux."

Here in Texas, we call that sort of behavior "dancing with who brung ya." Microsoft's strength has never been in delivering superior software, but it has always excelled at the "Three Ds": duplicity, deceit, and disingenuousness.

If freedom is good for all of us, then we must do our level best to carry the word to our friends and families still running Windows. We should take the lead in telling them they don't have to live under Redmond's thumb any longer. They can have reliable, secure, effective computing platforms. All they need in order to break the chains Microsoft has wrapped them in is the realization that they can be free.

Cutting costs is great, and not having to reboot to change from one application to another is good, too. Ditto the relative immunity from worms, trojans, and viral infections that Linux offers. But freedom is what it's all about.

GNU/Linux is the proof that the GPL delivers exactly the freedoms it promises. That is why Microsoft hates them both so desperately. Maybe we need our own "folk" holiday, to celebrate the freedoms -- guaranteed by the GPL -- which we enjoy today. Who knows, someone out there might suddenly "get it" and free themself from the bonds of the monopoly.


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