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King Vs.Thoreau

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King vs. Thoreau

By acting civil but disobedient you are able to protest things you don't

think are fair, non-violently. Henry David Thoreau is one of the most important

literary figures of the nineteenth century. Thoreau's essay "Civil Disobedience,"

which was written as a speech, has been used by many great thinkers such as

Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi

as a map to fight against injustice.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a pastor that headed the Civil Rights movement.

He was a gifted speaker and a powerful writer whose philosophy was non-violent

but direct action. Dr.King's strategy was to have sit-ins, boycotts, and marches.

Dr. King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" was based on the principles of

Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience". Both Martin Luther King Jr. and Henry David

Thoreau are exceptional persuasive writers. Even though both writers are writing

on ways to be civil but disobedient, they have opposite ways of convicing you. Dr.

King is religious, gentle and apologetic, focusing on whats good for the group;

while Thoreau is very aggressive and assertive for his own personal hate against

the government.

Both Martin Luther King Jr. and Henry David Thoreau have the same

ideas, but view them differently. Dr. King wants to ultimately raise awareness and

open doors for the better of a group. Thoreau wants more individual rights for

people. Dr. King is explaining his view of conscience:

I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is

unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the

conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the

very highest respect for the law (Martin Luther King, p. 521).

This quote shows Dr. King's opinion on going to jail. King knows that he was

unjustly put into jail. He accepts going to jail even though he was put in jail

wrongly. The community then knows of the injustice and should pressure the

government. The other thing that happens is King is respecting the law by obeying

it. He is a peaceful man and wants justice, but believes in following the rules

peacefully to get the job done. Thoreau feels that conscience plays a more

personal role.

Can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually decide

right and wrong, but conscience?... Must the citizen ever for a moment, or

in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every

man a conscience, then. I think that we should be men first, and subject

afterward (Henry David Thoreau, p.581).

Thoreau is questioning why majorities make the rules. He is questioning

democracy. He's telling us to question anything we do and why we should give

into the government if we do not agree with a rule. Why should we be individuals

with brains and have thoughts of our own if we are not allowed to think for

ourselves and do what we want? If we believe we are free, why do we have so

many rules? Thoreau believes we should be real to ourselves and live for

ourselves, not the government. King wants to change the laws because they are

morally wrong and Thoreau wants to change the law because he personally

doesn't like it.

Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King both agree injustice exists.

Thoreau thinks of injustice as friction or tension that can wear the machine down.

King thinks that injustice just exists and tension must be created with direct

action to negotiate with the machine. Thoreau explians,

If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of

government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth,-

certainly that machine will wear out..., but if it is of such a nature

that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another , then, I

say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the

machine. (Henry David Thoreau, p.587).

Injustice is a cause of friction, which is brought on by the government.

The government has created something that is working against itself; if the

friction of the injustice is left alone it will continue to grind down the machine.

Once again Thoreau questions if you can wait that long and what are you

personally going to do about the injustice. Thoreau says use your life to stop the

machine. Dr. King explains, " injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of

destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all

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