Why civil disobedience is necessary
In an 1848 essay, Henry David Thoreau coined the term "civil disobedience" in regards to his refusal to pay a state poll tax that had been implemented by the U.S. government in order to pay for the Fugitive Slave Law as well as the war with Mexico. He notes that the only people who truly serve their society (patriots, reformers, heroes, and martyrs) resist draconian measures with their consciences and with their acts of peaceful defiance. It should be noted that Thoreau actually went to jail for his protest and did it willingly. It should also be noted that those who engage in civil disobedience — e.g., Rosa Parks — are treated as outcasts, as enemies of society.
Civil disobedience is a means or an attempt to influence a population to accept a dissenting point of view that more than often strays from the norm. For example, in Norton v. Shelby County (1886) it was noted: "An unconstitutional act is not a law; it confers no rights; it imposes no duties; it affords no protection; it creates no office; it is in legal contemplation as inoperative as though it had never been passed." The act of civil disobedience can range from a peaceful street protest such as the recent protest in the District of Columbia by Americans protesting a stolen election. No violence was committed except by domestic terrorist groups Antifa/BLM and other miscreants out to do harm.
Thus, if the consent of the governed is removed, say, for a national mask mandate or an onerous tax bill or a violation of the First Amendment — i.e., banning gatherings for Thanksgiving or other peaceful gathering — why should the populace continue to follow such violations of the Constitution? An excellent case in point involves Robby Dinero, a gym-owner in New York City who not only defied a violation of his First Amendment rights by opening his gym, but also ripped up a ticket imposing a $15,000 fine. No violence, but his message of civil disobedience is quite clear: he will not conform to a draconian edict from Governor Andrew Cuomo, as it should be.
Indeed, Americans are masters at utilizing civil disobedience when they have finally had enough and have been pushed to their limit. Here are a few of the more famous acts:
1. The Boston Tea Party
2. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s March for Jobs and Freedom and the Civil Rights Movement
3. The Rosa Parks bus boycott
4. The women's suffrage movement
5. The Tea Party movement
There are two common threads running through these and many other acts. The first is that those involved have reached the conclusion that their concerns were being ignored by state or federal governments and that other legal means such as petitions, like the petition to form the state of Jefferson in Northern California, are ignored or dismissed by those in power. Indeed, it can be clearly see today as Americans fought Obamacare, for example, and while they wrote letters to their congressional representatives, protested, lobbied, and tried to take the fight to the courts only to be told that they, as American citizens, had "no standing," and Congress ignored the will of the people, as we saw.
Second, the people involved were so distressed by the edicts, laws, and demands of those in power that they sacrificed their personal freedom, their personal well-being, and their personal finances by going against the grain and protesting. They went out, in dangerous areas, like MLK's march or the recent march in D.C., because they believed in truth, justice, and freedom — freedom not just for themselves, but for the population at large.
In conclusion, civil disobedience can be very effective in changing public opinion on an issue, like the Vietnam War, and thus, force a change in governmental policy. Indeed, as a free people, Americans are correct to protest anything that impinges on their Creator-granted liberties or violates the Bill of Rights or the U.S. Constitution. Any laws that are unfair, immoral, or unconstitutional should be protested to the hilt because to obey such laws or acts indicates moral turpitude of the government. Thus, to ignore such laws or acts would reveal the abandonment of our responsibility as Americans to pass our rights and freedoms on to the next generation. That, in and of itself, is intolerable.
Image: NDLA, the Granger Collection.