The Civil Disobedience

In Civil Disobedience (Walker et al, 1996), frequent references to Locke’s theory of exalting the law is expounded. Walker et al promotes the Lockian principle of the sanctity of the rule of law (p. 13) while working toward undermining the lawless nature of man. Bay makes a strong case for exalting the law from his “own political ground of commitment to no system, but to the sanctity of [the law itself]” (p. 14).

“My point of departure is essentially Locke’s: respect for the rule of law, or for the democratic processes that produce our laws…” (Walker et al 1996, p. 15) As Bay explains (p. 17), the chances are that most of those who practice civil disobedience think of their behavior as “civil” in a sense, whether articulated or not. Taking Walker’s comment in conjunction with historical events (e. g. Civil Rights Movement, Welfare Movement, liberation, war, fight against poverty, et al) a clear distinction between civil disobedience and lawlessness is drawn.

While this paper places much emphasis on the continuing struggle between whites and blacks, historical evidence demonstrates that violence and lawlessness have always been a part of American life and have involved many of the groups that constitute American society (Young Americans for Freedom, 1998, p. 290; Malcom X, 1998, p. 106; Regan, 1998, p. 299). Throughout its history, America has been a lawless and violent nation. Race riots and bombings, although they are particularly dramatic manifestations of conflict, have claimed fewer lives than many other varieties of violence, individual or social.

There are more criminal homicides in some American metropolises every year than there have been deaths from all the urban race riots of the twentieth century combined (Horwitz, 1998). A few famous feuds and some important labor disputes have rolled up casualty lists that compare in length with the most spectacular interracial disorders. Social violence and lawlessness in general, have not been phenomena expressed only in interracial relations in this country.

However, lawlessness has lead to many positive outcomes whereby martyrs for their cause (e. g. M. L King, Jr, et al) have left legacies of constructive action. One such change has been apparent in the referenced group, SNCC, whereas love is the focus. “Generations of Southerners yet unborn will cherish our memory because they will realize that the fight we now wage will have preserved for them their untainted racial heritage, their culture, and the institutions of the Anglo-Saxon race. ” (Martin Luther King, Jr. , 1969)