Civil Disobedience

Because civil disobedience includes the violation laws, it is difficult to conclude whether an act is one of civil disobedience, or lawbreaking. During times of social strife- when a society is divided in opinion- there exists much controversy over whether or not certain acts of protest are qualified as civil disobedience. Within their definitions, the differences between civil disobedience and lawbreaking are clear. However, it is difficult to decipher whether a certain act is one of civil disobedience or lawbreaking, especially during a time when a society is divided and its differing opinions are non-negotiable.
The Declaration of Conscience against the War in Vietnam, written by David Dellinger et al in 1965, is a prime example of thedifficulty in arguing whether an act is lawbreaking or civil disobedience. The Declaration of Conscience broke the law in its counseling of others to refuse to serve for the Vietnam War. Those who signed the Declaration were aware of their violation of law; it was noted that the signing or distribution of the Declaration of Conscience "might be construed as a violation of the Universal Military Training and Service Act.” It is clear that the Declaration violated laws. However, to some, it was also a demonstration of civil disobedience.
Those who supported the war, fearing that its end would have devastating effects worldwide, found the Declaration to be an act of lawbreaking. Those who opposed the war did so for moral reasons, and therefore declared that signing the Declaration was an act of civil disobedience. Divided in opinion, it nearly impossible for these groups to negotiate their differences, because both sides had logical bases in their arguments.
Lawbreaking and civil disobedience have differing purposes, goals, motivations and intended actions. In his essay "Civil Disobedience", Henry David Thoreau writes, "Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them…

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