Kakos' 4th Hour

Reactions and comments from my fourth hour Honors American Literature class.

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My favorite place in the world to be is underwater. My second favorite place is the front of a classroom.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Resistance to Civil Government

Under what circumstances would you be willing to go to jail for a moral or political principle? Alternatively, explain why you wouldn't be willing to commit civil disobedience under any circumstances. Do you agree with Thoreau's decision to go to jail instead of paying his poll tax? (A poll tax, by the way, is tax on each voter.)

28 Comments:

Blogger JacobW said...

Personally, I would only be willing to go to jail if the circumstances unjustly contradicted the moral principles of my religion and/or family and if, under the circumstances, I were to prevent the harm my friends, loved ones, and most especially, Ms. Kakos. Also, if I were to be jailed under circumstances that challenged my moral distinction of right and wrong, then I would gladly stand by those morals with the utmost integrity, even as I sat in a barred and concrete cell. On the other hand, there is no political subject or event, at the moment, that I would object or support so strongly that I would carry out something to constitute my being thrown in jail for my beliefs toward it. Unless, that is, if Ms. Kakos ran for president and they wanted to charge me a pole tax for voting for her.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Ms. Kakos said...

Oh my god, Jacob!

4:42 PM  
Blogger lindzd said...

I would not go to jail for any reason, who would? But when I know that the law is wrong and something doesn't click as to why I should go, like Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr who were doing "crime" but were fighting for a cause and belief then heck yeah! I wouldn't commit civil disobedience especially under the roof of my mother for then I'll be toast if anything led me to prison.:) Thoreau's decison is uncertain to me because I don't vote yet but it really bites to have to pay a tax, sounds fishy.

4:44 PM  
Blogger nathank2 said...

In terms of Thoreau I understand his decision and respect it. I think that I would probably do the same. It is our right to vote and for the government to charge for that right is unacceptable. For something to push me to take jail over doing something I do not believe in, I would have to feel very strongly about it. I think there are definitely many things that would push me over the edge, but I do not think any of them would happen to me. Our government has done a great job of being just and erradicating the unjust, such as the poll tax. Jail would not stop me from expressing my views. And Jacob you are sucking up too much, it's pathetic.

5:29 PM  
Blogger Cayleigh B said...

I agree with Jacob and Nathan. I would only be willing to go to jail for something that i truly believed and was held very strong to.
I would do this only to make a statement, hoping that it would make a difference in some way. However, at this point in my life I feel that I really don't have strong enough beliefs about something to do that.
As for Thoreau, i respect his decision to go to jail because he felt strongly that poll tax was something that he did not want to have to do. He was voicing his opinion, and unlike most people, did not care if he had to go to jail.

6:44 PM  
Blogger CaitlinZ said...

It is hard for me to relate to this because I haven't been out in the "real world" with all of the issues that are important to me. It is easy for me to say "yeah, of course I would go to jail for what I believe in," but I'm not sure if I would actually follow through. Even though it was pretty brave of Thoreau to stand up for his cause, I think that there could have been better ways for him to express his opinions. How many people did he reach out to while sitting in a jail cell? He could have made a better point by protesting and getting his complaints out there.

6:49 PM  
Blogger Matt Coming said...

Yes I believe that I could go to jail for something I really believe in. However it is prudent the issue that has situated me in such a quandary be extremely challenging or compromising to my morals. Perhaps a family member was in great peril or was placed in into custody with out proper justification, then I would go to jail but not for a petty toll tax. Which is why I strongly disagree with Thoreau's decision to be incarcerated for something he knows he can pay for and that also might be helping out his state.

7:04 PM  
Blogger SuzanneC said...

I agree with mostly everyone else's opinion. If the government was doing something that I strongly disagreed with, I would be willing to go to jail for civil disobedience. I agree with Caitlin about her comment on how effectively Thoreau had his voice heard. There were probably only a few neighbors of his that really knew what he'd done and why he did it. I respect Thoreau's decision to not pay the poll tax because the tax is unfair. Many poor people probably couldn't afford to pay the tax which resulted in their opinion not being heard. The tax kind of defeats the purpose of voting.

7:08 PM  
Blogger meganJ said...

I've always been one to have my voice heard on matters that are important to me whether others want to hear it or not and I would certainly stand up for a relevant cause even if it did mean civil disobedience. Therefore if the oppurtunity were to present itself, I would certainly go to jail for a cause that was close to my heart, for instance if my rights were threatened or felt something was unjust. Granted i probably would go kicking and protesting the entire time the police drag me there - I'm not one to go down without a fight. I do believe the first and formost form of action though should always be a from of negotiation or problem solving.

P.s. These readings are giving me headaches!!

7:42 PM  
Blogger Sean P. said...

Jail is a prison for mind body and soul. It is a metaphor for oppression and fear. But Thoreau changes this prison into rather a doorway to freedom by breaking the law and in doing so being free from those who cage him. I myself am willing to go to jail for something I believe in, if I believe that going to jail would serve a purpose in my life, if that experience would change my life and free me from the cage I was in. Prison is meant to keep you down, and make it so you can never do it again, but if we truly believe in what we are doing it can be a path to enlightenment and strength.

7:44 PM  
Blogger collinm said...

I would be willing to go to jail for reasons like the rest of the class said already or to make jacob stop kissing up to Ms.Kakos. If it was a deep heart felt issue that affected more then just me and bettered the world and way things are run then I would make the sacrifice. Some issues i would fight and give up more for depending on how close or meaningful the topic was to me. I respect his decision to go to jail over the poll tax but it seemed a little excesive to me since it was a small amount. If it had something to do with a tax on race or other rights then i would have backed him up more.

7:51 PM  
Blogger jacksonb said...

I would most definetly go to jail for a cause I thought was just. I would be willing to go if I did not agree with a war, or thought there was a serious civil rights infraction in the country, and wanted to protest. I support Thoreau's decision not to pay the poll tax. He was not protesting the tax, so much as he was protesting the Mexican war, where the tax money would be put to use.

8:01 PM  
Blogger KerryL1005 said...

I agree with what everyone has said about going to jail. If there really was something I felt so strongly for and the government had disagreed with it, contradicted it, or made it illegal, I would stand by my beliefs and do what I believed was best at that time. TO go against the government, there has to be a serious belief or law that you are trying to stand against. Anyone who went to jail for disagreeing with the government is making a serious statement for themselves, their community, and to the government. Whoever is brave enough to do this is definately a hero! I believe Thoreau went a little to far with his statement, as Collin said. If it was something he went to jail for, such as a murder or something he was trying to defend, the story would have been better than a pole tax and refusal to pay. Well, I have to go watch the bachelor. Jacob, stop sucking up! haha.

8:04 PM  
Blogger Sarah B said...

I respect Thoreau for not paying the poll tax because he was standing up for what he believed in. Where would we be if people like him didn't fight for what they thought was right. Rosa Parks anyone?! Personally, I can't think of any situations right now that I would be willing to go to jail for. If those situations did rise though, and I felt strongly enough about them, I'm sure I would protest and/or go to jail for them. Especially if they envolved loved ones.

8:15 PM  
Blogger kerstinm3 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:22 PM  
Blogger Robn said...

Since Nathan didn't talk about this story, I'll tell it for him...
Once upon a time, Nathan's uncle got a parking ticket on his way to visit Nathan in some nowhere town in Kansas, or someplace. In any case, the fine was for $70, pretty ridiculous for stopping at a gas station or just for a quick rest stop. When he went to pay the fine, the jail attendant informed him that personal checks were not accepted, all that he had at the time. His response was, "Fine. Put me in jail." So, he spent a week or so in jail to pay off the $70 fine at five dollars a day. This is a classic example of what seems to be Sean's idea, or of Yossarian in Catch 22: you may not always be able to valiantly fight off your oppressor, but sometimes you can outsmart them. That is, society creates values based on what is best for the survival of that society, to keep the people down with that goal. If the society is unjust to you, sometimes you may have to adjust your own values to fight it. This is also a classic escape from ALIS: I could just rob a bank. If the robbery went successfully, I could live out the rest of my life in comfort in Cuba with millions of dollars. If it didn't, I could spend several years napping in a jail cell, doing no work but still getting three square meals a day, and still manage to have the 7 hours of free time I currently have.

8:22 PM  
Blogger AleF said...

I would protest if not actually go to jail for the preservation of civil liberties and constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech and freedom from persecution based on race/group affiliation/whatever. Everyone deserves certain rights, no more and no less. People who had the money to pay the poll tax gained the right to vote by their wealth rather than their citizenship, while otherwise deserving citizens were robbed of their ability to participate in elections. This is unfair even taken at face value. The true purpose of the poll tax was to prevent African-Americans from voting, since a very high proportion of their population was poor at the time. This is proven by the "grandfather rule", which voided the poll tax if the subject's grandfather had been able to vote. This let poor whites vote, even if they didn't have the money. African-Americans were still excluded, since in their grandfathers' era blacks were still enslaved and therefore couldn't vote.

P.S.: By the way, the First Amendment includes the freedom of the Ku Klux Klan to meet, distribute propaganda, and even set fire to the Cross in a Grand Dragon's backyard. As long as they do not incite a riot, damage property they don't own, or cause harm to anyone, even the KKK is under the protection of the United States constitution. So, really, the fact that the KKK hasn't been officially disbanded by the federal or even any state government is in fact a VICTORY for civil rights. Bet that makes them mad, ne?

8:23 PM  
Blogger kerstinm3 said...

I agree with Suzanne's comment about a poll tax defeating the purpose of voting. I would be willing to go to prison for something I was very passionate about. For example if the government said I was unable to express myself through my art I would be willing to go to prison for it. Even after they put me in prison I would not stop drawing. I would not be able to handle my stress without art and don't know what I would do without it. I respect Thoreau's decision to go to jail instead of paying his poll tax.

8:25 PM  
Blogger kennethf said...

I think one of the greatest blessings of living in this country is the freedoms bestowed upon us all. I think it’s hard to put our white suburbia selves into a situation like the one mentioned. What rights have been withheld from us? I would like to tell you that I would gladly face imprisonment by a government violating my human right to freely worship God. I read about the Christians in China and Indonesia who are beaten imprisoned and killed for their faith. They gave the ultimate sacrifice, one I don't know, if put in their shoes, would be able to give.

8:32 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth B. said...

It really depends on what the issue was, but it would have to be something that I really care about or I wouldn't go to jail for it. I think that there are other ways of protesting that I would try first, but if nothing else worked then I would consider an action that may lead to going to jail in order to raise awareness to the issue. Thoreau reminded me of the women in Britain during the turn of the century who were fighting for women's rights. Some of the main leaders went to jail several times to have their points heard because a woman going to jail then was unheard of so it was printed in the newspapers. This helped the Women's Right Movement gain support, overall awareness of many issues and the right to vote. I would go to jail for an issue like that or one that had to do with friends or family being unjustly treated. Otherwise I would not take such drastic measures. I respect Thoreau's decision to go to jail for what he believed in, but not what he went to jail for.

8:33 PM  
Blogger KaiaN said...

So, what- almost everyone has said they'd go to jail for a reasonable cause? But it's not as easy as it sounds. Have any of you ever tried to stand up to someone- a bully, a teacher, a principle? It's hard enough as it is, now imagine standing up against the entire United States government! Is that not fifteen times harder? Abolitionists were surely discriminated against the same way that African-americans were during the civil rights movement.

Not only would the government against you, but what if everyone around you was also against you? What if your best friends wouldn't even support you? Could you still withstand the enormous pressures that would persecute you? It's easy to say we would stand up for a good cause, but it's not as easy to actually do.

"... if one honest man, in this State of Massachusetts, ceasing to hold slaves, were actually to withdraw from this copartnership, and be locked up in the county jail therefor, it would be the abolition of slavery in America. For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: What is once well done is done forever." (P. 251)

Also- earlier today in class we were talking about life being meaningless because nothing we accomplish can prevent us from dying someday. Yet, I don't believe that life is completely useless. Obviously, becoming extrememly smart won't benefit anyone except yourself. But if you can find, for example, the cure for cancer, the whole purpose of your existence was to save millions of lives in the future, who in turn could do something else amazing for society. Like the quote, anything done right will endure the test of time, and through helping the future generations and reaching new heights, our lifes gain meaning.

sorry it's so long!!

8:38 PM  
Blogger KatieC said...

I think Thoreau was somewhat in the right by perferring to go to jail over paying his poll tax, mostly because a poll tax just seems like a really stupid idea in the first place, although I don't exactly know the deal behind it. I mean, why would you have to pay money in order to exercise your right to vote? Wouldn't that prevent people from voting? So I guess, I would agree with Thoreau and his decision...and I definitely think that being thrown in jail one measly night wouldn't prevent anyone from breaking the poll tax or any other law if that was the consequence, and neither did Thoreau.

9:43 PM  
Blogger willb said...

I would be willing to go to jail for certain things but a poll tax isn't big enough of a deal for me. If I was going to stand up for what I believe in, going to jail would be a last resort. There are too many other forms of protest that would allow me to be free.
I personally feel that Thoreau over reacted by being arrested but a poll tax must have been a bigger deal for him.

9:46 PM  
Blogger willb said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:46 PM  
Blogger Caylab said...

I agree with everyone especially Cayleigh. I would like to say that I would stand up for what I believe in because I like showing others that I'm strong in my morals. However, at this point in my life, I do not feel like I have enough knowledge to be willing to go to jail for what I believe in. If something however, is really important to me, than, like my parents have always told me, I will stand up for what I believe in, though it may not be in a way that would land me behind bars.

10:09 PM  
Blogger Caitlino said...

Sorry this is so very late and no one gets to read it!
Anyway...
Jail. Only for something real. Jail is no light punishment, however if it helps me to advance a cause or justify how much I support that cause than I am all for some time spent in a cell. Going to jail seems more of a personal decision than something affecting the great majority of the universe, therefore putting oneself in a position where jail is eminent is an act of one's own will rather than the pressure of others, because unless you are publically known, jail only affects one person and that is whoever has been jailed.

11:23 PM  
Blogger JeffN said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:38 AM  
Blogger JeffN said...

As many people have already stated before me, and Rob depicted quite well with the story about Nathan's uncle, I would personally be willing to go to jail and farther in the criminal justice system, for something that I was truly passionate about. In this world, all we really have is ourselves; our lives, our minds, and our moral convictions. If we don't believe in ourselves and stand by what we think is right, we are reducing ourselves to nothing. Thoreau believed that since voting was a constitutional right that he deserved to be able to do so without having to pay the government for that right. And I think that he did the right thing. I mean really, isn't that what our country is, the country of freedom? Shouldn't we have that freedom that everyone says we have? I agree with his decision and I respect that he had the courage to deal with the punishments for his actions. And Jacob is a sicophant. And he's trying too hard to do so. Someone needs to stop him.

7:44 AM  

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