Comparison of Civil Disobedience

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Comparing the Civil Disobedience of Martin Luther King Jr., Henry David Thoreau, and Mohandas Gandhi From the onset of man fighting for freedom or his beliefs, the question has always been whether one person can make a difference using words rather than wars. Philosophically, the concept of civil disobedience would appear to be an ineffective weapon against political injustice; history however has proven it to repeatedly be one of the most powerful weapons of the common man. Martin Luther King Jr. looked at the way African Americans were treated in the United States and saw an inequality. By refusing to pay his taxes and subsequently being imprisoned for a night, Henry David Thoreau demonstrated his intolerance for the American government. Under British rule, India remained oppressed until Mohandas Gandhi, with his doctrine of non-violence lead the country to freedom. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. had faith in his beliefs of equality, and that all people, regardless of race should be free and governed under the same laws. In the later part of the 1960's, Birmingham, Alabama, the home of King, was considered to be the most racially divided city in the South. "Birmingham is so segregated, we're within a cab ride of being in Johannesburg, South Africa", 1 when King said this he was only speaking half jokingly. In Birmingham the unwritten rule towards blacks was that "if the Klan doesn't stop you, the police will."2 When King decided that the time had come to end the racial hatred, or at least end the violence, he chose to fight in a non-traditional way. Rather than giving the white people the pleasure of participating in violent confrontations, King believed if they fought without violence for their rights, they would have a faster success rate. King also saw Birmingham as the major problem in America. If Birmingham could be cracked, the direction of the entire non-violent movement in the South could take a significant turn. It was our faith that as Birmingham goes, so goes the South 3 King saw the root of the problem in a place he could assist in rescuing. He gathered together his group of supporters and volunteers. They were trained daily before they began to protest, not on how to fight back to the physical attacks they would receive, but to be prepared for the physical abuse they would hav... ... middle of paper ... ... reflects the accomplishments made in four centuries. While man still does not have absolute free speech, he is not so suppressed that he must hide his feelings by literary means. Despite the belief that fighting with violence is effective, civil disobedience has been tried throughout history and been successful. Fighting violence with violence leaves no oppertunity for peace to work. By refusing to fight back violently, Martin Luther King Jr. took a race of people, taught them the value of their voice, and they earned the right to vote. Henry David Thoreau presented his doctrine that no man should cooperate with laws that are unjust, but, he must be willing to accept the punishment society sets for breaking those laws, and hundreds of years later, people are still inspired by his words. Mohandas K. Gandhi lead an entire country to its freedom, using only his morals and faith to guide him, as well as those who followed him, proving that one man can make a difference. Civil disobedience is the single tool that any person can use to fight for what they want, and they will be heard. After centuries of questioning it, it appears that the pen truly is mightier than the sword.

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