Would the Berlin Wall have fallen earlier? Would Tiananmen Square had ended differently? That’s how revolts of even 15 years ago withered and failed; they never got off the ground. At even the first signs of unrest, the totalitarian regime would step in and quickly squash any movements. Yet if that revolutionary tour de force moves at the speed of light, who can stop it?
From China to Iran to Yemen, governments are struggling to squelch the power of the Internet and social media. Even North Korea, ranked dead last in terms of technological advancement, struggles to keep its people properly brainwashed. Like water flowing downstream, this information and the power of words winds its way toward consumers — the people so thirsty for it.
It’s not a leap in logic to credit the United States with laying the groundwork for such movements across the Middle East. Our nation set the tinder. These revolutionaries lit the match.
After all, the Internet was created right here in the good ole U.S. of A. (Brace yourself, Al Gore.)
That’s right, the Internet as we know it today started as a small Department of Defense project as early as 1969. Back then, the Pentagon was looking for an alternate way of communicating beyond the telephone system during wartime threats. The best plan was to communicate across a "web" of networked computers — a program that was to be run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Created just after the Soviets launched Sputnik in 1959 and long heralded as the wiz-bang arm of the Pentagon, DARPA quickly stepped into action and perfected the ARPANET as it was first called, by 1983.
Just think, American ingenuity has done what hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars, thousands of soldiers' lives, and all the might of the U.S. military war machine could not — Spread democracy like a prairie fire.
Maybe that’s the lesson we as Americans can take from the volatile yet history-setting events unfolding half a world away. The desire for self-rule and independence is insatiable. No matter how big a stick we may carry, sometimes even the softest of words can wield the greatest influences.
Thought can in fact produce action, and spark a sense of community and solidarity, even when those passions are less than 140 characters. Didn’t we as a young people recognize this truism some 250 years ago? Only then, our rallying cries came in the form of Federalist Papers and words such as "Don’t Tread on Me."
We are embarking on a new Age of Freedom. The world’s youth know this. To them, freedom rests in the palm of their hands. We as a beacon of that hope and representative government would serve ourselves well to keep looking for ways to share technology with them.
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