Res Publica - Journal of Undergraduate Research

Article Title

The Duty to Disobey


America is a country founded on revolution. In fact, our founding fathers valued this right to dissent so highly, that they wrote it into our first amendment. In recent years, America has come to fear the very same kind of civil disobedience on which the country was founded. Now, citizens are expected to balance their dissent within the parameters of law, and this is exactly the view of past Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas. He stands for civil disobedience that follows the processes outlined in the Constitution and expects that dissenters accept their punishments when they step out of the law’s bounds. Although some citizens do share this view, it is outdated and ineffective for the problems that are facing our country today. Political science professor and social activist Howard Zinn calls for civil disobedience based on morality and justice. Only civil disobedience, he claims, can awaken America to the despicable state of the country and make progress happen. Zinn’s argument for civil disobedience focuses on justice for citizens and progressing the nation forward, while Fortas’ idea of civil disobedience is confined by the rule of law and the symbolic agreement of obligation between a citizen and a state.