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Transcending Violence: The Rich History Of Those Who Chose The Path Of Nonviolence

909 words - 4 pages

Many prominent political figures have spoken out against violence; among them are Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Dalai Lama. Instead of choosing physical brutality, they chose to follow difficult, winding paths full of powerful speeches, civil disobedience, and peaceful protests. These non-violent ideals have led leaders like Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King Jr. to achieve goals in ways government leaders and thinkers previously thought to be impossible. Different literary works like The Night Thoreau spent in Jail by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, Walden by Henry Thoreau, and Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr., show efforts of these leaders through Thoreau’s stand against the Mexican War and opinion of life in Walden, as well as Martin Luther King’s peaceful protests.
Thoreau’s night in jail proves that the powerful voice of one can change seemingly unalterable situations without violence. An evening others have discussed, contemplated, and criticized, it was the means for Thoreau to begin his political battle against the war in Mexico. Specifically, Thoreau refuses to pay his taxes. Believing that the funding for the Mexican war will be reduced due to his actions, Thoreau is taking a stand against the government. To him, simply helping to pay for a gun is a crime if the gun is used to kill, but the felony is made hundred times worse if the victim is innocent. Thoreau believes that the Mexicans are innocent, so when Sam Staples, his friend and tax collector says, “…But the government gets persnickety about taxes when we got a war goin’,” he just retorts, “I will not pay one copper penny to an unjust government,” (Lawrence and Lee 60). This proves that Henry feels so strongly against the government and its policies that he is willing to accept the punishment of not accepting them: jail. His use of civil disobedience is a form of successful nonviolent resistance that he urged others to follow. Staying true to one’s beliefs, regardless of threats of punishments, is a key element on the journey to non-violent resistance.
Life in Walden, Thoreau’s safe haven, also leads one to choose the right path over the easy one. He writes about living life without time, and living with a “…singleness of purpose and resolution…” (Thoreau 3). If one does so, he trusts that the results of their actions will be satisfactory, their work and intentions will be righteous, and their minds will be content. Thoreau describes an artist who wishes to build the perfect staff, one with only the most exquisite materials, the most intricate of carvings, and shiniest of polish. Although this may seem like a materialistic goal, to the artist the ability to...

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