When I first saw the letter asking for Richard Stallman and the FSF Board of Directors resignations with merely five signatures, I knew I had to sign. Not because I knew it would be the popular thing to do. But because it was what was true in my heart. Only in a sense of deep empathy could I understand the reasons why it had finally come to this. I signed the letter because as much as I have personally benefited indirectly by the legacy of Mr. Stallman in my life, I feel his continued presence is harmful and more damaging at the forefront of the movement.
I don’t say that casually either. I have involuntarily found Open Source as my calling. Or my people. I contribute to Open Source because I love to collaborate and work together with other people. This challenges me. It humbles me in a way that I know I can always learn something new from someone else. For this, Open Source and Free Software have enriched my life. They have also given me, again involuntarily, an odd but productive way of coping with my own mental health issues, anxiety, and depression.
So how do I make sense of the emotions and feelings I have now? How do I untangle this complicated web of events and reactions by other people? To ignore it doesn’t seem possible. If I remove emotion, I am left with a purely rational motive to involve myself in this contemporary issue. My work, profession, and career goals are directly affected by however this discussion goes. There is no way out for me. It’s my job, so I have to care. But if you add emotions back in, to stand still and remain idle is heartbreaking. To do nothing is to commit to defeat. Resignation. The darkness.
Yet what is there to do? The only thing Stallman ever directly gave to me in life was an email explaining elegantly how there was nothing he could do for the Minecraft GPL community fiasco. At a time when I was so personally lost as I saw a community I love tear itself apart, he stood by idly as the so-called steward of these licenses that I was just too naïve to believe in. That experience to me now is amplified in the light of the much more egregious things he is accused of.
So, the Free Software Foundation welcomes Richard Matthew Stallman back to its board. Wonderful. Congratulations Mr. Stallman. I am going to pause for a moment of sadness and hurt as I contemplate the impact of this moment on our fragile movement, which has much bigger enemies today than it has in its 40 year legacy. But then…
I will move on. Because we have to. The only way is forward.