Civil Disobedience and the Government

In Civil disobedience, written by Henry David Thoreau, he argues that if citizens feel laws are unjust then they must rebel against them and disobey the rule of the law. Henry uses himself as an example on why one should disobey a law. He does this by refusing to pay taxes in protest of slavery and the Mexican war. For years the government paid no attention to Thoreau’s failure to pay taxes, until July 1846. Being asked to pay his debt, he refused and was thrown into jail. Because of his brave actions, Thoreau became a prominent model for civil disobedience. Nevertheless, I agree with Henrys argument that citizens should disobey the laws if they are unjust because one’s voice should be heard, especially if the disobedience is done in a peaceful manner. In order for there to be change one must take action such as disobeying the law. One can not sit back and expect a change to happen but one must put some type of action behind his/her fight. In my opinion civil disobedience is a nonviolent show of protest and should be used as a tactic to have ones voice be heard. For generations citizens have felt that the government is corrupt and should be changed for the better. People like Henry Thoreau felt strongly that the government and their rules are highly corrupted and unjust. Thoreau expresses this through his opening statement, That government is best which governs least (Thoreau 1).

The government is at its best when it does not govern every aspect. The government should not intervene in the lives of its citizens anymore than is absolutely necessary. If the government intervenes in every situation then it has the possibility to create chaos. A government that intercedes more than necessary, can also cause the creation of new, unwanted laws, which people will not agree with, thus pushing a citizen for their voice to be heard using civil disobedience as a tactic, just as Henry Thoreau did.In addition, when laws are created it is sometimes made for a special interest group, and not for a country as a whole. If a law was made to be just, then it must be in favor for not only one set of people but for everyone. A law should not be made in favoritism, but should be made in the convenience for all people. The governing body state should treat an individual in the same manner as others in similar conditions and circumstances. After all, the country is not made up of one group, but is made up of an infinite amount of people whose voice deserves to be heard. Lastly, a person’s first and most important obligation is to do what he/she believes is right. A person should not feel pressured to follow a law that is dictated by majority. There should be equal protection for not one set of citizens but for all citizens. If a law is not beneficial to everyone, then what is the purpose of the law? Laws are put into place to guarantee the same rights, privileges and protection to all citizens. In Thoreaus time there were laws specifically made to discriminate a set of people, which were black slaves. Because Thoreau was an abolitionist and refused to follow majority on what they believed was right, he decided to have his voice be heard through a speech he gave in Massachusetts at an anti slavery rally. Henry Thoreau states, Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it (Thoreau 1). Thoreau spoke up and suggested if one would like the government to be shaped into a government of his/her liking then one must voice their opinion and make known what they would like to change about the laws. Opponents of this proposition may suggest that citizens should not disobey an unjust law in order to avoid punishment he/she would not like to suffer. Because the individual has made a choice not to adhere to a law, it will be inevitable to suffer the consequences of the choice. Having ones voice be heard, comes with a price and most of the time it may not always be easy. For example, because Henry Thoreau protested and voiced his opinion against the unjust laws, he was thrown into jail overnight. Opponents may say this could have all been avoided if Thoreau were to just comply to the law and end his uneffective protest. Opponents of my claim may also believe civil disobedience and voicing ones opinion has little to no effect against the majority. How could one voice have the power to go against a majority? Civil disobedience cannot be made to work in defense of injustice, it is simply too weak of a tool to be used against unjust laws. These claims can be disputed, because when an individual voices their opinion, eventually, it will brings about awareness to the majority and has the power to influence others into understanding and joining the civil disobedience. Do you believe that citizens should disobey the laws if they are unjust because one’s voice should be heard, especially if the disobedience is done in a peaceful manner? Reflecting on Thoreau’s argument, I still agree with it. In order for there to be change one must voice his/her opinion in a civil manner. Yes, there will be laws made in favoritism of one group, or there will be laws that directly discriminates against one group. However, it is up to the individual and their beliefs on what is right to take action and speak up about it, just as Thoreau did. Thoreau realized that the only way to disobey an unjust law is to voice his opinion, protest and use civil disobedience as a tactic to combat the government. Opponents of my claim may disagree and feel as if voicing an opinion/civil disobedience has no effect. Opposers may also believe civil disobeying a law just brings about unnecessary drama and unwanted punishment. However, my argument of an individual disobeying a law if they feel it is unjust still remains.

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