Civil Disobedience Debate

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“The price of liberty is eternal vigilance” (Wendell Phillips), and requires every citizen to act as a watchdog for their government. As demonstrated in the past, sometimes morally abhorrent legislation is passed and action is taken in opposition to the will of the people. In these instances, civil disobedience positively impacts a free society, but should be used a “last resource” (qtd. in Mirkin “Rebellion, Revolution, and the Constitution”), less one endangers the rule of law.

Civil disobedience —with varying civility— has been apart of the American tradition predating the War for Independence and starting with refusal to obey the Townshend and the Intolerable Acts. This civil disobedience precipitated a revolution of mind, a revolution
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The lines between morally justifiable and morally culpable are blurred, and judgment varies from individual to individual. In the present, no one’s actions have had such a variance in public perception as those of Edward Snowden. Whether his release of NSA documents revealing a worldwide, U.S. based collection of electronic data is a massive breach in security or a courageous crusade to protect the privacy of Americans has been the subject of much debate. More recently partisan protests have dotted the country for innumerable reasons. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. laid out several qualifications that necessitated civil disobedience, aware that “[i]n any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action” (King “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”). If any on these conditions are not met, or if the disobedience is handled uncivilly, the group is not a positive force for legislative change, but a force of destruction, as the entire point of civil disobedience is to “forc[e] a moral decision [that] should benefit the lawbreakers” (Mirkin “Rebellion, Revolution, and the Constitution”) as the law or action is already “counter to the expressed and felt moral demands of society”
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