Thomas Jefferson, the third president and author of the declaration of independence, once exclaimed, “If a law is unjust a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so. ” Jefferson declares that at any cost if one finds a law wrong than it is his duty to stand against it for the common good. He implies that people should never stand idly by or blindly follow a law that is immoral only because it is the easiest way. Knowing when a protest against government is needed was also what the writers Martin Luther King, Henry David Thoreau, and Arthur Miller wanted to instruct to their readers.
King was a significant activist and leader of the civil rights movement who was the cause of many amendments and progress for the rights of African Americans. His A Letter From Birmingham Jail impassioned many to stand up for the unalienable rights they deserve. Similarly, Thoreau was an author and abolitionist that worked to get citizens to restrain the unrighteous actions of the government. In his essay Civil Disobedience, he essentially criticized the American government’s role in the MexicanAmerican war and slavery, but overall he believed citizens had a duty to their country to oppose to unjust laws.
Lastly, Miller wrote the play The Crucible about the 1600’s Salem witch trials which exemplified an authority becoming corrupt and tearing a unified town apart. He exhibits to his readers what would occur if one does not withstand a law that they believe is wrong. All these men valued civil disobedience profoundly and believed it was especially needed when power became unruly. They strongly encouraged citizens to meticulously judge whether the ways they were obeying were ethical and never be afraid to do so, even if it was not the norm.
All three authors warn their readers to never accept corruptions in authority and stress that they are obligated to rebel against it, despite the consequences they may face, in order to assure that the rights and privileges of every citizen are preserved. King bids to always carefully assess the decisions the government makes to know when it is right to restrain against any corruptions. MLK wrote A Letter From Birmingham jail when he was in prison for parading without a permit.
He directs his letter towards clergyman who accused him of being an extremist causing unnecessary problems. He defends the reasons for why he was disobeying the government’s choices and claims that it was mandatory to demand freedom or else it would not be given. However, he accepts that he is defying the law and is willing to face any penalty because his principles advise him that he does not need to follow an unethical law.
MLK alludes to Adolf Hitler and the Hungarian Freedom Fighters to display what role he and his followers play in an unjust society: We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal. ” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. ” King recognizes the infamous Hitler to compare his actions to what the clergy and government were doing to African Americans. Even though he cruelly tortured and killed millions, everything Hitler conducted was not against the law.
In the same way, segregation and lack of rights for African Americans were something that the government allowed despite the discrimination it encouraged. Because both were on the basis of prejudices, King relates both Hitler and the American government to highlight that the wrongs people were ignoring were similar to the inhumane doings of Hitler. King also mentions the Hungarian Freedom Fighters, who rebelled against the tyranny in Hungary to regain their rights and overthrow the tyrants.
King claimed that like The freedom fighters who restrained against what they thought was the abuse of power, he and his followers were only trying to better society and make sure no one is robbed of their natural rights, no matter what their skin color was. King wants the clergy to understand that just like how Hitler’s actions resulted in genocide but were not illegal, the discrimination of colored people is unfair and should be put to an end, or else it will result like the Holocaust did. If uncontrolled power is not abolished initially, it will grow and take on a life of its own.
Like The Freedom fighters, King persuades his audience to use civil disobedience to resist the segregation in America and ensure colored people are also provided their natural rights. Similar to King’s emphasis on the importance of basic rights, Thoreau compares taking away someone’s right of life with holding slaves to compel his audience to rebel against the unjust government. In his essay, Thoreau holds slavery and the Mexican-American as his main evidence to criticize the American government’s policies.
He strongly believed that the Mexican American war was an unnecessary act of aggression and that the soldiers were being treated as mere tools and not men. He was against slavery as well because he thought it also dehumanized many people and that it was because the government only gave significance to the majority opinion, not accounting for the justice of minorities. He tried to explain this to the ignorant citizens: “If I have unjustly wrested a plank from a drowning man, I must restore it to him though I drown myself. This, according to Paley, would be inconvenient.
But he that would save his life, in such a case, shall lose it. This people must cease to hold slaves, and to make war on Mexico, though it cost them their existence as a people. ” Thoreau applies an analogy to compare stealing a plank from a drowning man to taking the privilege of life from a slave. Though it saves one’s own life, he or she must live the rest of their days with the remorse of costing another man his existence. Thoreau acknowledges to the Americans that this sin was what they were doing to a slave, not only stealing another’s life but, moreover, losing a part of their own humanity while doing so.
Thoreau hopes to reveal to the people He impels the people to understand that only because something was following the law did not mean it was right. He reminds them that they should not follow what is solely imposed by the majority but instead use their conscience as their method of judgment. Thoreau hopes this will persuade them to go against the dehumanizing doings of the government because he believes that if the people change then the government will also follow.
Following King’s and Thoreau’s belief of always standing against laws that are unethical, Miller shames the people who are afraid to oppose the wrong, hoping they would realize their ignorance and rebel, disregarding the penalties. In his play The Crucible, the town of Salem is split into two: religious unity and individual thought. The town was very religious and believed if they kill whoever is accused to working with the devil they could deem themselves godly.
A hoax that started from a few young girls trying to get out of trouble grew to everyone in the town accusing one another of being a witch. Anyone who was accused had either an option to confess or be hung, so most citizens begun lying and saying that they were witches to save their own lives. The court system was unfair and the leaders became corrupt, taking advantage of their social status.
Finally in the end a man named John Proctor decides he would not subject to the unjustness anymore, and he furiously yells at Deputy Governor Danforth for his ignorance: And it is my face, and yours, Danforth! For them that quail to bring men out of ignorance, as I have quailed, and as you quail now when you know in all your black hearts that this is fraudGod damns our kind especially, and we will burn, we will burn together! ” Miller uses “quail” to display the cowardliness he sees in the people of Salem and Danforth for failing to recognize the truth about the witch trials. By using “quail”, he emphasizes that the people’s fear of the consequences they would face caused them to ignore the truth.
They did what protected themselves, instead of having the strength to point out the faults in their system. Because most knew that the trials taking place in the village were fraud but went along with the crowd anyways, Miller implies that the devil was not in the community, but, in fact, the devil was found within themselves; they themselves were the ones bringing evil into the town. Miller uses the events in Salem as a reminder to what could happen if citizens neglect to the defects they see in authority because it was the easier path.
Just as King and Thoreau also wanted, Miller urged people to preserve the system of justice by protesting against the laws they felt were unjust. Even though it may result in penalties, not in their favor, He believed civil disobedience was the best way to amend society and secure the rights of the people. In order to MAINTAIN the American value of “unalienable rights”, Martin Luther King, Henry David Thoreau, and Arthur Miller URGE their audience to always object to an unjust authority using civil disobedience.
King portrays what would appen if people followed a corrupt leader and allow power to grow uncontrollably; it would result in a tragedy like the Holocaust. In addition, he also acknowledges that, like the Hungarian Freedom Fighters, if you do what you believe is right then you will accomplish a positive improvement in society. Furthermore, Thoreau accentuates the importance of using your moral sense to determine whether the laws you are FOLLOWING follow your values because the first priority is to be a righteous man and then a subject to authority.
Miller also contributes to this argument by disciplining his readers to never fear the cost of rebelling against the dominant opinion because that cost is worth the change their rebellion would achieve. The ability of civil disobedience is important to have because it ensures the protection of being manipulated easily by a higher power. If you do have the strength to question authority than your rights will always be safeguarded.