What is this?
Questions and answers, because my friends and I have been doing a lot of asking and answering, in unequal measure, with more asking than answering. Because I’ve been distraught by the incessant stream of reductionist observations about Mozilla, each one like being punched in the heart with the hard fists of righteousness and conviction. Because questions and answers once brought me peace, when I was much younger.
Who are you?
Who is Brendan Eich?
What has Mozilla done?
From humble and unlikely beginnings, Mozilla entered a battle seemingly already decided against it, and gradually unseated the entrenched incumbent, user by user by user, through campaigns that were traditional and innovative, and increased consciousness about the open web. It became a beloved brand, standing firmly for open source and the open web, championing the Internet, sometimes advocating politically for these convictions. It relied, and continues to rely, on a community of contributors from all over the world.
What has Brendan done?
Many things intrinsic to the open web; he helped shape technologies used by countless numbers of users, including to write and read this very post. Also, a hurtful and divisive thing based on a conviction now at odds with the law of the land, and at odds with my own conviction: in 2008, he donated $1000 to California Proposition 8, which put on a statewide ballot a proposition to define marriage as strictly between a man and a woman in the state, thus eliminating gay marriage, and calling into question pre-existing gay marriages. The amount donated was enough to oblige him to list his employer — Mozilla — for legal reasons.
What are my convictions?
That any two people in love should be able to marry, regardless of their genders; that the marriage of two such people affords all legal protections intrinsic to the institution of marriage including immigration considerations, estate planning considerations, and visitation rights. That this is in fact a civil right. That matters of civil rights should not be put before a population to vote on as a statewide proposition; in short, that exceptions to the Equal Protection Clause cannot be decided by any majority, since it is there to protect minorities from majorities (cf.Justice Moreno).
How do such convictions become law?
Often, by fiat. Sometimes, even when the battle is already seemingly decided (with the entrenched weight of history behind it, an incumbent), one state at a time. State by State by State (by States), using campaigns that are traditional and innovative, to increase consciousness about this as a civil right.
How should people with different convictions disagree?
Bitterly, holding fast to conviction, so that two individuals quarrel ceaselessly till one yields to the other, or till one retreats from the other, unable to engage any longer.
Amicably, by setting aside those convictions that are unnecessary to the pursuit of common convictions I share with other Mozillians, like the open web. Brendan embodied the Mozilla project; he would have made a promising CEO. My conviction can be governed by reason, and set aside, especially since the issue is decided by courts, of both law and public opinion. His view, only guessable by me, seems antediluvian. Times have changed. I can ask myself to be governed by reason. We need never touch this question.
But I can do this because my conviction about the law, stated before, has never been tested personally by the specter of suicide or the malevolence of bullying; marriage equality is the ultimate recognition, destigmatizing lifestyles, perhaps helping with suicide and bullying. And, my inability to marry has never disrupted my life or my business. I cannot ask others to lay aside convictions, without recognizing the sources of pain, and calling them out. (Here, Brendan made commitments, and Mozilla did too).
What will the future hold?
Brendan has said his non serviam but calls out a mission which I think is the right one: privacy, also a civil right, especially privacy from governments; continued user advocacy; data liberation; a check on walled gardens (and an end to digital sharecropping); the web as mobile platform, even though it is under threat in the mobile arena, the battle seemingly decided, the entrenched incumbent slightly less obvious. This latter — mobile — is reminiscent of the desktop world in 1998. It’s the same story, with smaller machines. Perhaps the same story will have to be told again. I’d like Mozilla to be a major player in that story, just as it always has been a major player on the web. And I’ll be looking forward to seeing what Brendan does next. I’ll miss him as part of Mozilla. This has been crushing.
Coda: what have wise ones said?
“I don’t know why we’re talking about tolerance to begin with. We should be at acceptance and love. What’s this tolerance business? What are you tolerating, backpain? ‘I’ve been tolerating backpain, and the gay guy at work?’” — Hari Kondabalu (watch him on Letterman). And blog posts: Mozilla is not Chick-Fil-A; Thinking about Mozilla; The Hounding of a Heretic (Andrew Sullivan); a few others, discussing what a CEO should do, and what qualities a CEO should possess, which are out there for you to discover.