Be the Change

January 2, 2008
By Beryl Foster, Essex, CT

Henry David Thoreau writes about many profound ideals and principles. Over the course of his insightful and achieve career, he addressed issues such as government control, taxes, and the importance of being alone at times. There is one idea in Civil Disobedience that really appeals to me. This quote reads, “Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them.” I believe that in a day and age where the government has so much control over our everyday actions, it is necessary to explore and investigate the laws and restrictions that we find unconstitutional or just simply immoral. I believe that the United States is often accredited as a “Super Power,” but it is not the people that hold this power, it is the government. I also maintain that until the people of the United States make effort to amend these unjust laws, we will never be in power of their own existence.
Take for example, The Patriot Act. Whether or not you agree with the powers and laws outlined in this act is irrelevant and immaterial. The fact of the matter is that on March 9, 2007, a Justice Department audit found that the Federal Bureau of Investigations had “improperly and, in some cases, illegally used the USA Patriot Act to secretly obtain personal information” about United States citizens. Then again, on June 15, 2007, following an internal audit finding that the Federal Bureau of Investigation agents abused a Patriot Act power more than 1,000 times, U.S. District Judge John D. Bated order the agency to begin turning over thousands of pages of documents related to the agency’s national security letters program. So the question that I ask to the alleged “Super Power” is why hasn’t anything substantial been done about this abuse of power in our government. When there is clear allegations and irrefutable evidence of impropriety, why are we as the people satisfied to let the government make the first move? Why, as Thoreau would put it, has this unjust law been simply content to be obeyed?
If Martin Luther King, Jr. Had simply accepted the racial discrimination, where would the civil rights movement be today? If the world had just sat around while Adolf Hitler continued to kill and persecute innocent people, where would Eastern Europe be today? Lastly, if Americans hadn’t made a stand to help the struggle in Africa with AIDS, how many more would be dead today? Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” and I firmly believe that is the one and only way change can come to a society in this day and age.

I believe that Thoreau’s quote effectively explains an ideal that many Americans claim to possess. However, in reality, I believe that it is not an ideal that we as Americans practice nearly enough. The majority of the country just accepts that they have little to no say in the complex and often corrupt machinery that makes up the government, and is content to sit and wait for change that many never come. I believe that we could all take a lesson from Thoreau and Gandhi alike and be the change that we not only want to see in this world, but that this world legitimately needs. We should not sit by and be content to obey unjust laws. We should instead make every effort to amend them.

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