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Civil Disobedience Essay

1719 words - 7 pages

All throughout world history, human beings have participated in acts of civil disobedience. However, in the last two centuries the belief and practice of it has been in full swing and has even brought on major historical events, especially concerning equal rights and just laws. Three major firm believers and activists in civil disobedience were Henry David Thoreau, Martin Luther King Jr., and Gandhi. All three of these men participated in acts of civil disobedience but each in his own way and for different reasons. Henry David Thoreau believed that a certain war tax was unjust during the Mexican War and he refused to pay it. This then lead to his arrest and one day in jail where he wrote the essay "Civil Disobedience." Martin Luther King Jr. on the other hand participated in an act of civil disobedience for a much larger and important reason. He was fighting against segregation in America and for equal rights for all American citizens, including black that had been oppressed in America for over 300 years. Loved and followed by thousands, King sought equal rights for both himself and for others through non-violent marches and demonstrations, which in turn led to equal rights for all American citizens including blacks. Gandhi's participation in civil disobedience was by far the most effective and led to one of the most eventful periods in time; the independence of India from British rule. However, even though these men all believed in civil disobedience and equal rights for all, they all achieved their goals through different means and methods, as seen in the three quotes involving different forms of civil disobedience. The three quotes will then be discussed and compared to the works of King, Gandhi, and Thoreau.
The first quote, stated by Robert A Heinlein, discusses a direct form of civil disobedience, in which the protester directly disobeys a rule that they alone find to be too obnoxious or unfair. The person in the passage does not even talk about using negotiations to achieve their goal, instead they directly refuse to follow a rule which a direct rebellion toward the government. This passage relates to Thoreau's method of civil disobedience the most. The reason for this is because Thoreau believed that he had a moral obligation to himself to do what he thought was right, instead of a government who does what they believe is right for its people and themselves. Thoreau stated this best when he said, " the only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think is right." This is exactly what the first quote was stating, that the protester has an obligation to himself first and can do anything including directly disobey an unjust rule in order to fulfill that obligation. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi on the other hand believed in negotiating with the government first before participating in acts of civil disobedience and they also believed that...

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