It was eight years ago today that we lost Aaron Swartz, an exceptionally gifted hacker (in the original sense of the word), writer, and activist — a 21st Century renaissance man and a prodigy as well, much loved by people like me who spend our working hours pushing bits around. Aaron was confronted with the very real prospect of spending decades in federal prison for the “crime” of downloading too many academic journals, and ultimately decided, from within the fog of depression, that he could not live in this world any longer.
In the bubble I live in, a lot of people refuse to admit that the Obama administration did some truly heinous things. Hounding Aaron to suicide was one of them. When we remember Aaron, we are reminded that copyright laws in this country are badly out of whack, that our criminal justice system focuses on procedure, not justice, and that our society still does more to stigmatize victims of mental illness than it does to help them heal.
I mourn for Aaron every January 11. It still hurts — deeply — to know he is gone.