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Civil Disobedience Essay: King and Thoreau Essay

Civil disobedience is a force needed to purify the condemnation of injustices within a society. Civil disobedience can be defined as the refusal to comply with certain laws as a peaceful form of political protest. Such protests are needed when the rights of citizens are being violated and their voices are being unheard. Thoreau’s ideas were becoming heavily common as they were being used by Civil Rights Activists. These ideas which these activists used greatly affected the way our government now functions today. What if such actions did not take place and only the voices of inequality were heard? Would we not still remain in a society of injustice? ((Rhetorical question)) Civil disobedience – this form of political protest – must be distinguished from cases of crime and acts of civil rebellion. The purpose of civil disobedience is not create fear or establish injustice above the law, but to create justice and equality that may reside under the law.

The Civil Rights Movement is a perfect illustration of how the government can be moved and changed to produce a positive outcome toward the community and its citizens. Martin Luther King Jr. followed in Thoreau’s footsteps, his one inspiration, by partaking in acts of civil disobedience. His civil acts promoted a form of influence upon government that did not evoke harm or fear. Thoreau stated in his writing that “It is not a man’s duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even the most enormous wrong, but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practically his support.” This means that when a government displays inequality, illustrates injustice, or portrays discrimination ((parallelism)), it is up to people to take action.

Gandhi, a highly credited figure in civil disobedience protests, who also supports citizen action, states that “non-cooperation is a measure of discipline and sacrifice, and it demands respect of the opposite views” – the government. Thoreau’s way of showing his disagreement with injustice displayed by the government is by one, his rejection to pay tax’s which in turn landed him in jail and in more defiance towards the government he secondly helps fugitive slaves, disobeying the Fugitive Slave Act. His rebellion allowed for the voices of people who agreed with him to stand with him and fight for injustice. To be clear, one should not view or only pursue to be involved with the acts of civil disobedience because of any dislike toward a country, but because he or she believes that the country can be something great, that these unjust laws are only limiting the potential of a beautiful society. Fighting for yourself is courageous; fighting for your country, heroic.

The court case Plessy vs. Ferguson further displays the affected force any individual has on the government. Plessy, although biologically a white male, was still subjected to the injustices of racial segregation under the ”Separate but Equal Act”. Plessy understood how this law still abided under segregation and decided to partake in protests and civil disobedience to change this law and promote equality within the society. His determination to create justice for the people allowed the government to decide that ‘separate was inherently unequal.’ In retrospect, the government can indeed be changed by and influenced by the people.

The government perceives itself to be the voice of the people, is that not exactly why the voices of the people should be heard. Is the government not a body of voted people for the people, by the people? Will a government that cannot bend itself to commend its people not break instead? It is civil disobedience that allows the government to bend itself to the extent that it can serve its people. Therefore, it is in turn not unruly to state that civil disobedience is necessary in a community. Civil disobedience is, and will always be necessary in any society.

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