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My first Thesis (1 Viewer)


Senior Member
I started back to school in the middle of February as an English Major. Aside from a semester and a half at Art School, this is the first time I've been a student for over 10 years. Unable to find an English class I was scrambling for anyone I could get and finally managed to get into an English 1A class on their 4th meeting. Right away, I found out that my first assignment was to be a Thesis on Civil Disobedience, how conscience plays a part, what responsibility citizens have to their fellow citizens and wether or not violence was ok. We were also suppost to compare/contrast the ideas found in "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Henry David Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience". Wow... I was overwhelmed at first, as that was the first time I had even had the word Thesis directed at me. I had heard teh word before but didn't know what it meant. Anyway, I wrote the essay the morning before it was due, so with no further ado:

I welcome any comments you have to make, good or bad.

An Appeal for a Preemptive Strike

It is the right and responsibility of every American, as citizens of a republic, to ensure that the actions of the government reflect the conscience of the society it governs. Whenever the government fails to accurately represent the voice of the people, it becomes necessary for the people to raise their voice. If the government -when confronted by an overwhelming appeal for change- refuses to comply with the will of the people, the citizen must then take whatever measures are necessary to restore the balance of power.

In the United States, where the population is nearing three hundred million people, it is not unlikely for the individual citizen to feel unable to initiate change. This feeling of ineffectualness, when compounded with the very real possibility of fines, imprisonment or alienation from ones peers, presents the perfect formula for creating what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. dubbed the “White Moderate”. Many citizens, whose conscience begs for action, when unified under a common banner, could cause an uproar that no government could ignore. However, it is all too often that the still, small voice of the conscience is silenced before it ever reaches an audience.

In the instances where the voice of the conscience refuses to be ignored, further obstacles arise to turn aside the efforts of the concerned citizen. As members of such a large society, those who are determined to make their objections known are sure to come face to face with equally concerned citizens who are equally convinced the course they have set upon is the correct one. There are as many different opinions of what constitutes the ‘right’ course of action as there are politicians, media networks, teachers, preachers and bar-stool philosophers and more. With such a maelstrom of ideologies battling for supremacy, it isn’t any wonder how seldom real change takes place, or that the only real winners of the struggle are the powers that be.

It is no accident that the nation is so divided; the current president was elected to office when nearly half the country opposed him. While the citizens of the United States of America bicker over whose ideas are the best, the social elite thrive on it. By using the media as a subversive tool to entangle and deceive, they are able to maintain their place in the upper echelon. Though they adorn themselves in masks of servitude and benevolence, it is clear through their actions that those in power have only one goal: to maintain that power. King stated his recognition of this truth when he wrote, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed” (157). In the face of such opposition, engaging in civil disobedience to bring about change may seem a monumental task to be undertaken by men and women of heroic proportions, or at least those with nothing to lose.

Citizens constantly look to their elected officials to bring about the change in government they desire. Some join the ranks of the concerned citizens who herd into the polls on Election Day to elect their "savior", only to go back to their homes and watch each dismal failure on the part of that savior on the nightly news. How often they rail against the government and the oppressive means with which it goes about its business and yet they probably couldn’t even tell you the political affiliations of their neighbors. It is this back seat driver’s approach to self government that threatens to strip Americans of their unalienable rights until those rights are reduced to concepts so alien that the common citizen wouldn’t dare to dream of such freedoms.

There is no greater threat to American freedom than this: That the American citizen should feel content to cast a vote on Election Day and thus consider fulfilled their obligation to participate in turning the wheels of justice. This egregious conduct is nothing new in America, as evidenced by Henry David Thoreau’s claim that “Those who, while they disapprove of the character and measures of a government, yield to it their allegiance and support, are undoubtedly its most conscientious supporters, and so frequently the most serious obstacles to reform.” Indeed, he goes further to illustrate his opposition to this impotence;

"How can a man be satisfied to entertain an opinion merely, and enjoy it? Is there any enjoyment in it, if his opinion is that he is aggrieved? If you are cheated out of a single dollar by your neighbor, you do not rest satisfied with knowing that you are cheated. [...] you take effectual steps at once to obtain the full amount, and see that you are never cheated again. [...] unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?"

This rings true in America today, where a war rages abroad, despite the overwhelming number of citizens who oppose it; whether in its entirety or in the manner of its implementation. However, this spirit of opposition goes no further than complaint, with no positive action to initiate change. Logic clearly supports the widely echoed claim of English philosopher, Edmund Burke; all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. In spite of this fact, good men continue to do nothing on a daily basis. Are they simply lazy or do they, for whatever reason, believe the fight for justice is not their own? If it is the latter, perhaps the words of King can re-affirm, in their hearts, not only their right, but their duty to take up arms against tyranny;

"I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. 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 indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial, 'outside agitator' idea. Anyone inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds."

Though the revolution that gave birth to the United States of America was a bloody one, such extreme measures should only be taken under the direst of circumstances. In fact, when nearly every citizen in the country is guilty of doing nothing for so long, to take up arms in violent protest without first exhausting all other avenues of approach would be irresponsible and deplorable. This does not mean, however, that American citizens must continue to do nothing. They should be encouraged by the fact that the smallest effort on each of their parts could drastically swing the direction of the country toward a more positive course. If average citizens simply became involved with affecting change at their local level, the result would be a nation-wide resurgence of the concept of self-government upon which this nation was founded. It is not the burden of any one man to change the world, but only to do what he can.

1218 words

Works Cited

King, Martin Luther, Jr. "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." A World of Ideas. Ed. Lee A. Jacobus. 5th ed. New York: Bedford/St, Martin's, 1998 pg. 153-169

Thoreau, Henry David. "Civil Disobedience." CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE and Other Essays. Ed. Philip Smith. New York: Dover Publications, 1993 pg. 1-18


Senior Member
this is quite well written, kane!... there are some minor glitches here and there, but overall, it's a fine, carefully-structured paper and an intelligently-presented argument...

if you want a thorough proofread by a neutral pair of eyes, send it to me by email attachment and i'll be glad to point out the little things that keep it from being '100% perfect'...

love and hugs, maia
[email protected]


Senior Member
Thanks for the response. Yeah, you could comment more specifically if you like, but if not; don't worry about it. Turns out I got an A on it. My professor even requested a copy for her 'favorite papers'. Lol, I did a lot better than I thought I would.