Civil disobedience has had varying degrees of prevalence ever since the history of civilized man. This fact is due to a variety of causes including social points of stratification, basic economics and even religious concerns. What is interesting about these periods of strife is that they frequently accompany periods of quiescence -- whether willingly or unwillingly on one faction or another. As such, the best examples for the use of civil disobedience are found in the analysis of various points in history. Such an examination frequently elucidates the point that social progress has routinely occurred on the heels of civil disobedience; perhaps the best examples of this fact include the Revolutionary War, the Civil Rights movement, and the Vietnam War.
The use of civil disobedience is well illustrated with the Colonial War and the revolution that occurred in America as a result. The central aspects of this conflict -- which involved the naval practice of impressment (Dzurec 32) -- were not just an assertion of independence of the colonists from the British crown. Although the colonists certainly valued their newfound liberty at the conclusion of the war, they were actually questioning some of the fundamental issues of socioeconomics. A pivotal aspect of those issues was related to financial matters. Perhaps the most cogent example of this fact is the unpopularity of the many taxes that Great Britain levied against the U.S. following the French and Indian War. The need to do so, of course, stemmed from the monetary and capital resources that Britain spent in waging that war and procuring a good deal of the so-called 'new world' for its colonies. However, the form of liberty that the colonies valued definitely included a monetary liberty in which they could form a newfound solidarity to engage in global trade (which was the basic reason for the establishment of this colony). Significantly, there were other governmental influences that the colonists sought to dissolve with the revolution, as the shift in government with from a monarchy to a republic, initially. Although there are still civil problems with a democracy, there are conceivably more ways of redressing them than with a monarchy. In this respect, one can see that civil disobedience definitely produced a useful outcome in that it gives the people a better means to address the government -- should they have any outstanding issues with it.
Another way in which one can readily see the usefulness of civil liberty and its effect on society is by analyzing the Civil Rights movement. This movement was certainly not the unified one that many sources of history claim it was; there were a number of different proponents with varying degrees of vested interest in the so-called race question than are readily acknowledged today. While most people view integration as a solution to those issues, there were certainly other ones at the height of the Civil Rights movement. However, the results of integration were able to produce some useful effects on society. Again, the people have a better means of redressing whatever grievances they happen to have with their government. Prior to integration, African-Americans had little means of redressing the wanton murders, harassment, and institutional racisms that prevented them from exercising their civil rights in the way that many non-African-Americans could. As a result of the civil disobedience which accompanied the Civil Rights movement, African-Americans have much more of a semblance of the rights that they were granted than before the movement. Several pieces of legislation (such as the civil Rights act) (Orbe 177) reflect this fact. Perhaps the most tangible representation of integration that occurred as a result of the Civil Rights act is that more African-Americans have access to financial opportunities than they previously...
However, the vocal and visible nature of the Civil Rights movement also proved minorities for other social stratifications other than just African-Americans. Native Americans, Chicanos, and women also championed for their rights during this period. These benefits, and the aforementioned ones, are demonstrative evidence of the usefulness of civil disobedience as illustrated by the Civil Rights Movement.
The Vietnam War created another epoch in which civil disobedience was manifested in the U.S. It is critical to note that the civil unrest that accompanied this particular martial encounter occurred during the 1960's, when there were a number of countercultural movements afoot in the country. Nonetheless, The Vietnam War was significant in the annals of American history for a number of different reasons. It was the first military encounter that involved the U.S. In which America did not readily secure a convincing win. Furthermore, it was accompanied by a number of different instances of civil disobedience. Students and other citizens led a number of protests in which they partook in demonstrations and sit-ins to protest what they perceived was the senselessness of this war. It is also interesting to note the correlation between these two factors. Part of the reason that anti-war sentiment was heightened in the U.S. pertained to the fact that the Vietnam War dredged on for the better part of 20 years and people were frustrated with what largely seemed a useless effort. Additionally, the protests and anti-war sentiment brought about some startling revelations about the government and its involvement in this encounter. For the first time, Americans discerned that their government had deliberately deceived them regarding the number of casualties (both U.S. And otherwise) and the level of involvement of the U.S. In this endeavor (Arendt, 1972, p. 1). The result is that more citizens and watch groups have formed to try to keep the government honest -- both about its international affairs and its domestic reporting of them. Such uses are very important to a democratic form of government in which the people are supposed to be able to decide how the government represents them.
There are also instances of civil disobedience which are not part of prolonged movements or outbreaks of war. Nonetheless, there is some utility produced by these spontaneous eruptions of civil disobedience. A good example of this fact is the riot that broke out in Los Angeles and the various cities surrounding it following the initial acquittal of the police officers who savagely beat motorist Rodney King. The reason that the reason from the African-American community was so sudden and riotous after the initial verdict was offered is because these police officers were witnessed on national television beating King -- on his hands and knees in the middle of the street -- for the better part of five minutes. This sort of excessive force is part of a strikingly recurring theme of "deviant" (Punch and Gilmour 10) police behavior in contemporary times. The excessive force used by these officers in this well publicized case of police brutality seemed confirmed by nearly everyone who watched the viewing. Therefore, when the officers were initially acquitted the reaction was swift and destructive on the part of African-Americans in Southern California. What is crucial about the ensuing riots, however, is that most of them took place in inner city neighborhoods in which African-Americans essentially tore apart their own communities. While the usefulness of the repercussions of destroying one's own neighborhood may not seem advantageous, it is worth noting that after the riots a retrial of the officers took place, in which some were convicted of relatively minor counts relating to the beating of King. Had the African-American community not protested in the form of civil disobedience via rioting, looting, and destroying property, it is dubious as to whether or not a retrial would have taken place. Thus, even in this situation it seems as though the deliberate action of civil unrest helped to produce a desirable social outcome in effecting some sort of accountability for the Caucasian police force beating this unarmed motorist almost to the point of death.
Lastly, more contemporary acts of civil disobedience have occurred in which the use of this sort of law breaking has produced desired results. The last couple of years have seen numerous cases in which Caucasian police officers have murdered unarmed African-Americans, in addition to cases in which non-African-Americans have murdered unarmed African men -- or boys. Several of these cases occurred in Florida. The Trayvon Martin slaying at the hands of George Zimmerman initiated civil disobedience in the form of peaceful protests. The slaying of unarmed Jordan Davis and Mike Brown incited similar protests to the rioting that recently occurred in Baltimore (Calvert). On some occasions individuals have crowded the freeways and prevented motorists from driving on them. Although the utility in crowding freeways seems somewhat questionable, these acts have served to garner attention and make instances of the murders of unarmed African-Americans a more pressing social issue than they would be without them.
Overall, it is clear that civil disobedience has accompanied the history of civilization at various points in time. Furthermore, when specifically analyzing events such as the Colonial Revolution, The Civil Rights Movement, the protests against the Vietnam War and acts of civil disobedience…
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