There are times in history when unjust governmental laws, edicts, orders, and mandates - even duly and lawfully enacted ones - unfortunately aren’t seen as “unjust” by a vast majority of people in an era. This leaves a minority who do understand true justice and the arch of history the often unenviable task of resisting such laws using various forms of civil disobedience.
Obvious relatively recent examples of this include the American War for Independence, the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, and civil rights. When those movements began, only a small percentage of the existing population supported them. When things remained peaceful, proponents used various forms of protest and civil disobedience to slowly win people to their side. For example, Martin Luther King, like Mohandas Gandhi in India before him, expertly used non-violent resistance to win the public, end injustice, and make his country a better place.
But when reformers and revolutionaries took arms and failed, the consequences imposed by governments were often lethal. See John Brown’s slave revolt and polarizing raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859, or the Jewish armed revolt in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II that resulted in a horrific, violent Nazi crackdown leaving tens of thousands dead. Thankfully, the American revolutionaries won their war, else thousands would have also ended up on the wrong side of a noose.
Indeed, there’s a time for most everything, even violently overthrowing violent oppression. Fortunately, a vast majority of people have eventually come to the side of the reformers of the past, a fact that lends solid weight behind the justness of those causes. Today, however, we live in different times. With the chasm-sized schism between left and right polarizing politics in a way we’ve seemingly never seen before, both sides differ on what issues would even justify civil disobedience in the first place. We aren’t even from the same planet, much less have the same views of what constitutes ‘justice.’
Consider: To many if not most on the right, a governmental denial of the fundamental right to bear arms would likely warrant a violent reaction, while the left would happily provoke such a reaction if it ultimately meant fewers guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens (and being able to criminalize people they don’t like). The left, on the other hand, looks to various examples of inequality of results as evidence of some sort of ‘systemic injustice.’ It’s no longer good enough to have a level playing field. Each side must perform equally or else there is some form of ‘ism’ afoot that must be eradicated by any means necessary, even if a few black-owned businesses are burned down in the process. If there’s no ‘grievance’ to whine about, even a made-up one, they seemingly have no purpose in life.
As a conservative, it’s hard not to see the left’s various ‘causes du jour’ as complete nonsense. Every individual, regardless of gender, race, age, disability, national origin, or sexual orientation, has complete equality under the law. So when leftists march, loot, and burn cities down for absolutely nothing, I roll my eyes and shake my head along with most everyone else who reads this column. Even as a white man who started with almost nothing and has never personally benefited from any type of affirmative action, I’ve certainly never felt the need to perform any civil disobedience of my own - at least until March 2020, when COVID-19 hit and everyone lost their ever-loving minds.
While the left and even some on the squishy right were happy to impose and obey seemingly unlimited COVID restrictions, no matter how scientifically unsound, many on the right balked, especially in the face of increasing data evidence that lockdowns, mask mandates, and business closures did little or nothing to stop or even slow down the inevitable. To me, if the government can force human beings to place a damp, bacteria-laden piece of cloth over the holes they use to breathe based on scant, model-based ‘scientific’ evidence and the hope that it ‘might help,’ and keep such mandates in place for well over a year, they can do almost anything. Even worse, if they can artificially instill enough fear, most of the public will happily obey and even turn on fellow citizens who refuse to toe the line.
During the pandemic, I happily used this column, and my personal life, to openly flout any and all ‘restrictions’ imposed by Covidstan. As proven time and time again, they have no legitimacy and deserve no obedience. To me, resistance to Covidstan, and all it represents, is obedience to God, justice, and liberty.
But there were and are personal limits, at least right now. For example, the few hours I wore a mask on a plane in March 2021 were more hours than I’d worn a face diaper the entirety of the pandemic, but I did wear one. And I’ll wear the blasted thing again when flying next week, because even though I think the transportation mandate is ridiculous and openly have written about it in an effort to get it abolished, I have hope it will end soon, plus a critical mass of opposition hasn’t been reached where an individual who stands up doesn’t lose more than I’m willing to lose at this point. That’s the thing about civil disobedience. It tends to bring consequences. I can happily take the social ones, but I’m not interested in being on any no-fly lists just yet.
Some of you may criticize me for that. Others may agree. We all have a slightly different take, especially when it comes to issues like this. But regardless, all this does make for interesting discussion. Speaking of, when I do travel next week (with a mask, sadly), I’ll be going to Rapid City, South Dakota to moderate a panel at Freedomfest called “Defying The State: When Is Civil Disobedience The Moral Thing To Do?” We’ll be hashing out all these issues and more on Friday, July 23 with libertarian activists Austin Peterson, Spike Cohen, and Jess Mears. If you’re in town, please consider stopping by and checking it out. I’d love to meet you!
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