Civil disobedience has been discerned in numerous time periods of American history. The definition of disobedience can be interpreted when one or a group prioritizes their conscience of their beliefs over the dictation of laws through rebellion. Notable historical events of slavery and independence has been marked with the disobedience of government laws. Even though the disobedience of societal laws can undermine the corruption of the government, disobedience has undeniably steer societal progress. A form of civil disobedience was the fight for independence of the colonies in the American Revolution.
Civil Disobedience What is civil disobedience? What does it do? Why is it important? Is it a right thing? These few questions might pop into one 's head when they hear civil disobedience.
People's justification to engage in civil disobedience rests on the unresponsiveness that their engagement to oppose an unjust law receives. People who yearn for a change in a policy might sometimes find themselves in a dead end because their “attempts to have the laws repealed have been ignored and legal protests and demonstrations have had no success” (Rawls 373). What Rawls says is that civil disobedience is a last option to oppose an unjust law; therefore, providing civil disobedients with a justification for their cause. Civil disobedience is the spark of light that people encountered at the dead end and they hope that this spark of light will illuminate to show that an unjust law should not exist at all. Martin Luther King, Jr, in his “Letter from
Accounts of civil disobediences have made their way into the paper many times since the start of this country: the Boston Tea Party, Thoreau's refusal to pay a poll tax, and Rosa Park's decision to stay seated on the bus. All of these examples represent a time of distress when people responded in non-violence to prove a point. But many would ask if this is really proving a point or if it is simply disregarding the law and setting a bad example? Well let me ask you this: would it be better to sit back and to hope that someone will speak out about the problem, or to go forward in violence thinking that that is the only way to achieve something? It seems that an act of non-violence is a way of being heard without coming across as irrational or
John Locke asserted that government must come from the consent of the governed. The Declaration of Independence professed the right of all people to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Constitution cemented the paramount prominence of general welfare for all United States citizens. Since our beginning, we the people have been a characteristically empathetic majority. But we have not always been a beacon of equality: the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, the Stonewall Riots, and even current conflicts between the police force and black Americans exemplify the occasional rift between the government and the governed.
When a law can be resisted without bringing harm to anyone, then that law should not exist. There are, currently on the books, sodomy bans and legislation against atheists taking political office: These laws are insane. Further, it is the state's job to ensure not only that civil disobedience is possible, but that it works. When civil protest fails to achieve results, violence follows. If a people realize that their peaceful voices will not be heard, such as what occurred in France in 1789, then they shall instead use violent methods.
Humanity. It is what connects everyone together, and what drives us to continue to pursue justice and change, even if it is not accepted. Time has shown us that change is possible, if the voice we use to enact it, is strong and powerful. Changing a law, a state of mind, and a country comes as a long and arduous journey, but the reason to fight is much stronger than any challenge it may come with. The Bill of Rights entitles all American Citizens to specific freedoms, including Freedom of Speech, and we, as people may speak out, if we feel we are being deprived of any of our rights.
Civil Disobedience During the 1950s and before, it was a crime to be different in the United States; one was hated for being so. Simply sitting at a lunch counter or on a bus could result in a person’s arrest. Throughout history and continuing to this day, peaceful protest has effectively resulted in positive change in society. Injustice has best been remedied through nonviolent tactics than through violent ones, as violence almost always leads to just more violence.
Law and order, as far as most westernized intellectuals are concerned, is the absolute protector of rights. Every advanced democracy subscribes to the continuing presence of law and order, and it’s hard to argue with the results seen and enjoyed today. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Let every man remember that to violate the law is… to tear the charter of his own and his children’s liberty.” While this sentiment is deeply relevant, it trivializes legitimate grievances citizens have against the legal system. Many of these issues can, indeed, be worked out within the system, and permanent change is achievable.
Personally, I believe that civil disobedience is a lot more than what is included in its definition. My definition of civil disobedience does not only include the peaceful resistance of public laws, but also the disagreement with laws that do not directly affect American life. Civil disobedience should not only be defined as peaceful protest, but as other actions where Americans can stand up for what they believe in, even if there are no consequences. Writing letters, emailing, or even posting on social media should also be considered as forms of disobedience. All citizens should stand up for what they believe in, even when it’s against government views, to protect their own freedom.
Civil Disobedience: Righting the Wrong The foundation of civil disobedience is rooted in the concept of moral principal. When existing laws or accepted social behavior are viewed as being unjust, discriminatory or otherwise considered to be morally unfair, many citizens are compelled to take action in an effort to affect change. In 1849 Thoreau wrote about civil disobedience in his work titled On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. Thoreau believed that a government with too much control minimizes the ability of the people to exercise their own judgment. He claims, “That government is best which governs least.”
From the beginning of mankind’s recorded history, opposition to established governing bodies have always been recorded. Whether through coup d'etat or a peaceful protest, resistance to authority always causes change in some way. The United States Government changes; laws are meant to change as well. America prides itself on the history of its peaceful protests and revolutions, demonstrating positive effects on a free society. Because peaceful resistance wasn’t creating progressive change, radical disobedience was the key to change in the 1700’s during the American Revolution.
Although laws are put in place to protect the citizens on which it is enforced, no system of government is perfect. There are times in which laws are passed that have a controversial effect on society, be it the segregation of race or religion, or the NSA spying on US citizens. Based on this, it can be concluded that civil disobedience is a peaceful way to express the unjustness of a law in hopes of change. Rosa Parks is an excellent example of civil disobedience having a positive impact on society. After peacefully violating the Jim Crow law that enforced segregation, Parks was arrested in order to raise discourse on the treatment of African Americans in American society.