Civil Disobedience – Сustom Literature essay

Sample essay topic, essay writing: Civil Disobedience - 1887 words

From the onset of man fighting for freedom or his beliefs, the question has always been whether one person can make a difference using words rather than wars. Philosophically, the concept of civil disobedience would appear to be an ineffective weapon against political injustice; history however has proven it to repeatedly be one of the most powerful weapons of the common man. Martin Luther King Jr. looked at the way African Americans were treated in the United States and saw an inequality. By refusing to pay his taxes and subsequently being imprisoned for a night, Henry David Thoreau demonstrated his intolerance for the American government.

Under British rule, India remained oppressed until Mohandas Gandhi, with his doctrine of non-violence lead the country to freedom. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. had faith in his beliefs of equality, and that all people, regardless of race should be free and governed under the same laws. In the later part of the 1960's, Birmingham, Alabama, the home of King, was considered to be the most racially divided city in the South. 'Birmingham is so segregated, we're within a cab ride of being in Johannesburg, South Africa', 1 when King said this he was only speaking half jokingly

In Birmingham the unwritten rule towards blacks was that 'if the Klan doesn't stop you, the police will.'2 When King decided that the time had come to end the racial hatred, or at least end the violence, he chose to fight in a non-traditional way. Rather than giving the white people the pleasure of participating in violent confrontations, King believed if they fought without violence for their rights, they would have a faster success rate. King also saw Birmingham as the major problem in America. If Birmingham could be cracked, the direction of the entire non-violent movement in the South could take a significant turn. It was our faith that as Birmingham goes, so goes the South 3King saw the root of the problem in a place he could assist in rescuing. He gathered together his group of supporters and volunteers.

They were trained daily before they began to protest, not on how to fight back to the physical attacks they would receive, but to be prepared for the physical abuse they would have to endure. The volunteers were trained to believe that Bull Conor, the police sheriff, wanted them to fight back with violence. King taught them to accept it, and continue to participate in sit-ins and carry signs of protest. King had the ability to inspire his demonstrators so that they feared nothing, not even death. And I know that when I say don't be afraid you know what I mean.

Don't even be afraid to die. I submit to you tonight that no man is free if he fears death. But the minute you conquer the fear of death, at that moment you are free. You must say somehow, I don't have much money; I don't have much education; I may not be able to read and write, but I have the capacity to die.4When the demonstrators marched, they were jailed. When they were released from jail they marched again. The blacks of Birmingham, with the aid of King, united together against the common enemy of racism.

When King was imprisoned, he wrote Letter From Birmingham Jail, explaining the philosophy of non-violence and presenting one of the most well-founded justifications for direct action and civil disobedience. People in Birmingham criticised King about the timing of his demonstrations. We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was `well-timed' in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word `Wait'! It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This `Wait' has almost always meant `Never'.

We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that `justice too long delayed is justice denied.'5With his desire to free himself and others equally oppressed, King and his dream moved forward with more rallies, marches and speeches. It took four years from the time King began his crusade, until the glorious day in 1964, when he witnessed the signing of the Civil Rights Act. After Birmingham, King moved on to Selma, Alabama to fight for the right for blacks to have the vote. The violence against the demonstrators was obscene, and their only drive was for the success they would receive after they faced the pain of their fight. King encouraged people not look at this fight as a request for the right to vote, but rather as a demand for the freedom of choice.

We must gain political power, and we must come to the point of being able to participate in government. No longer must we be willing to be disenfranchised. We must say, 'Give us the ballot.' We are determined to have the ballot, and we are determined to have it now.6After protests and non-violent action, Martin Luther King Jr. met with President Johnson to discuss a new Voting Rights Act. An act allowing blacks to vote for the first time ever.

That day in 1965 was the high point of the entire civil rights movement. It was achieved because an oppressed people saw the indignity they were facing and banded together to stop it. They did not fight or use vicious warfare. They gave their demands and protested peacefully until their desires were recognised and acted upon. Martin Luther King Jr.

Knew how to get his ideas across, and knew what would be the most effective way of doing so. The piece of literature that influenced him most in his decision to fight the way he did was On The Duty of Civil Disobedience, by Henry Thoreau. By watching those before him, King understood that fighting violence with violence was not the answer. `Government is best which governs the least.' This motto sincerely accepted by Henry David Thoreau was the beginning platform for his move into civil disobedience in 1848. Unlike other freedom fighters, Thoreau was not racially oppressed by anyone. He honestly believed that a composed government was a root of man's problems.

With the adopted motto, Thoreau's desire was to see it acted upon, and become a stronger version of what he wanted. His goal was to see a government that followed his idea of '`government is best which governs not at all.' And when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government they will have.'7 Thoreau saw no need for a government that supported slavery, and would not put an end to it. He believed that people who are waiting for the laws of their nation to justly free them are wasting their time. 'The law, will never make men free; it is the men who have got to make the law free.'8 Thoreau, unlike others was not promoting non-violence. He was an anarchist who was opposed to any form of government.

Henry Thoreau did not have a following behind him, he had to begin on his own, gradually convincing people to give support his ideals. He knew that there were others in society who had beliefs not unlike his own. The slavery that was taking place bothered other people as well, the difference was, that they were not prepared to suffer or stand up for the rights of others. There are thousands who are in opinion opposed to slavery and to the war, who yet in effect do nothing to put an end to them; who, esteeming themselves children of Washington and Franklin, sit down with their hands in their pockets, and say that they know not what to do, and do nothing; who even postpone the question of freedom to the question of free trade. . .

. They hesitate, and they regret, and sometimes they petition; but they do nothing in earnest and with effect. They will wait, well disposed, for others to remedy the evil, that they may no longer have it to regret. At most, they give only a cheap vote, and a feeble countenance and Godspeed, to the right, as it goes by them.9 Thoreau thought that it was not enough to feel strongly for something, if no actions were to come of it. His views on slavery were the strongest, and though it was not he who was enslaved, he knew it was wrong and condemned others for not having the courage to do anything about it.




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