Linux is turning 20 and having a party in Canada to celebrate.
It makes sense. Canadians understand Linux in ways Americans just don't, or don't want to.
Linux is shared infrastructure. Linux is not profit-oriented. Linux is not a business.
Americans are not set up to think that way. And it has gotten much worse in the 20 years since Linus Torvalds released his first code. Free enterprise has moved from being the way America worked to becoming an ideology, and finally a theology, driven by a small economic elite which, led by the oil oligarchy, is now driving the crisis in American politics.
Yet Linux is 110% American. Sure Linus Torvalds is a Finn, but he's lived in America for many years, in Portland, and he is by all accounts quite happy, raising a family, sitting in the center of a vast network of contributions both personal and corporate, directing a project he loves.
To me, that's an American success story. I don't think he could do this in Helsinki. There are too many languages in Europe, too many opposing trips-and-dramas, too much intrigue. The markets are, individually, too small to scale. The way every European open source business I know of grows is to first exhaust its home market's opportunities and then come to America.
Here's what is great about Linus Torvalds, and Linus' America.
America has always been at its best when it has been mission-oriented rather than merely profit-oriented. When there was something on the line beyond mere gain, when a businessman or organization saw beyond the immediate horizon, that's when America has really shone.
I got a taste of that in June when I took a good friend, an ex-Marine, over for cataract surgery at the local VA hospital. Yes, there were lines. Yes, there was bureaucracy, there was procedure. But my friend was saluted, he was honored. His operation was the mission of those people, not how much money they could make but what they could do -- the job, not the money.
How much of America's greatness has been about the money anyway? The Erie Canal wasn't really about the money, but the power New York could gain from it. The Civil War wasn't about the money. World War II wasn't about the money. The creation of this Internet was not about the money.
It was the mission that mattered. Beating Philadelphia. Ending slavery. Beating the Nazis. Beating the Soviet Union. Our greatness is the means to the end, and the end is not wealth, but a better world for our children and grandchildren.
This is what the theocrats of the Heritage Foundation don't get. This is what the Koch Brothers don't get. It's what the Tea Party holds its fingers to its ears against. Our greatness is not our wealth, or the system which creates that wealth. We're about freedom, not fascism.
The sooner Americans understand that Linus Torvalds is just as great an American as Bill Gates, the sooner we see that our mission is a shared one, the sooner we understand that the mission is a better world and not a bigger bank balance, the sooner our present problems will fade into memory.