To Speak or Not to Speak?
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. received a Nobel Prize and was honored by the President of the United States for his contributions to society. On the other hand, he was prosecuted, convicted, incarcerated, and had his sentence reaffirmed by the Supreme Court. These explanations seem rather contradictory. If what he did was noble, why was he jailed for his actions? When we take into account these manifestations of the government's attitude towards Martin Luther King, we can safely make the assumption that the government is not always justified in the laws that it creates. Our government's original purpose was to keep order and ensure freedom to its people. As history has shown us, as in the case of African Americans, the government will expand its role and take away liberties of the few. The individual is justified in acting out in civil disobedience when the government restricts the liberties of the individual.
When the Declaration of Independence was drafted, our forefathers were defying the laws of Britain. It was an act of treason for men to declare a separation from Britain and to create a newly formed government for America. These men acted in civil disobedience because the laws were unfair to Americans. Under the new government, they immediately drafted the Bill of Rights, rights that they believed were unalienable for all men. The government's role was not to control our lives, as the British rule had done, but to prevent chaos and protect us from those who tried to take our freedoms. Man is naturally power hungry, and those who run the government may attempt to take away the public's rights as stated under the Bill of Rights. Because of such cases where those in government have created laws to restrict our unalienable rights, the individual must not allow the government to expand its role. He may choose to do this in several ways. He can tell his congressmen that he feels a law is unjust. If the congressman is unwilling or unable to change the law, he may make a proposition to change the law during the voting periods. The only problem with propositions is that they are a matter of appealing to the majority. If the majority feels that there should be a change and enough people sign the proposition, it will become enacted. However, if the law is only affecting by the minority of people, these two routes will not create a change of a law. It is clear in such a case that civil disobedience is vital to insure that the government does not over-extend its role.
Civil disobedience is defined by the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary as "a refusal to obey governmental demands or commands especially as a nonviolent and usually collective means of forcing concessions from the government." The most popular example in U.S. history when this was used was during the Civil Right Movement in the 1960's. The Jim Crow laws at the time restricted African Americans from being able to attend public schools or use public...