Each July 3 we celebrate Disobedience Day. It is an international holiday. This day will mean different things to different people. For some, it will be more individual, especially for those stuck in situations where they have to do what is expected of them all the time. If this is you, I sympathize. I have been in your position when I thought if I had to be the good and obedient one another minute, I’d burst. For you, this can be a day to step away from the routine or the oppression, and do something different without anybody’s permission.
For many, however, this day celebrates civil disobedience. It is a day to remember all those who challenged unjust laws, putting themselves on the line. We have many modern examples of non-violence disobedience to look up to. Gandhi in India challenged the British rule there and eventually won freedom for his people. There was Nelson Mandela in South Africa, who led the fight against apartheid with peaceful protests. In the United States, we have Martin Luther King, Jr., who was an icon of the African-American civil rights movement. Probably the most prominent civil disobedience of recent years has been the protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which shows that too often might and power win over right.
But civil disobedience didn’t start in the twentieth century. According to National Whatever Day, “One of the oldest depictions of civil disobedience is in Sophocles’ play Antigone, in which Antigone, one of the daughters of former King of Thebes, Oedipus, defies Creon, the current King of Thebes, who is trying to stop her from giving her brother Polynices a proper burial. She gives a stirring speech in which she tells him that she must obey her conscience rather than human law. She is not at all afraid of the death he threatens her with (and eventually carries out), but she is afraid of how her conscience will smite her if she does not do this.”
So whether this is a day for you to rebel against your circumstances, or a day to get involved in more general movements, it is a time to remember than unjust situations and laws don’t change until somebody stands up and say “No.”
Quotes about Civil Disobedience
Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it.–Howard Zinn
An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.–Martin Luther King, Jr.
Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.–Henry David Thoreau
Civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the state becomes lawless or corrupt.–Mahatma Gandhi
We cannot, by total reliance on law, escape the duty to judge right and wrong… There are good laws and there are occasionally bad laws, and it conforms to the highest traditions of a free society to offer resistance to bad laws, and to disobey them.–Alexander Bickel
Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it.–Albert Einstein
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. –Desmond Tutu
I believe that Gandhi was correct. Non-violent civil disobedience is the only way to bring about change that allows people to enjoy the change and not get killed in the process.–Edward James Olmos
Dare to do things worthy of imprisonment if you mean to be of consequence.–Juvenal
Civil disobedience has an honourable history, and when the urgency and moral clarity cross a certain threshold, then I think that civil disobedience is quite understandable, and it has a role to play.–Al Gore
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