In support of civil disobedience and a pox on bad laws

Just because it is a law does not necessarily make it right or just.  Recently in the news has been the tragic story of a young woman, a wife and mother, in Texas who suffered a lung embolism.  As a result of a severe loss of oxygen, she was put on a respirator.  However, she was declared brain dead by the hospital doctors.   It was discovered that she was also in the early stages of pregnancy.  This woman had stated her wishes not to be kept alive with machines, and her husband and family want her taken off the life machines so she can rest in peace.  But Texas law says that a woman’s body must be kept alive if that body is carrying a fetus.

One of the lawyers on TV discussing this case made the comment that “It is the law of Texas, and, therefore, the hospital is right in its decision.” I was indignant hearing her say this, but that’s the way it is.

That had me thinking about flawed laws and the need to obey them.  Over the ages there have been many unjust laws, laws influenced by prejudices, discrimination, biases, fear and, especially, big money.

Some have since been changed or struck down, usually after a long history of protest, more rarely because the lawmakers have come to realize they are unjust.  Of course, refusing to obey the law means arrest, as Thoreau, one of the earliest well-documented practitioners of civil disobedience learned when he refused to pay taxes because some of the money went to maintain slavery.

Recently there has been much uproar on TV over basketball player Dennis Rodman because he did not petition Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea to free Kenneth Bae, now in prison there.  It seems that Mr. Bae, was acting as a missionary for Christianity.  Proselytizing is not against the law in most countries, but in North Korea it is, especially if one is pushing western religion.   The act is seen as an attempt to overthrow the government.  That is against the law in any country.

There are people in the Middle East and Asia right now who are marching to protest the corruption they perceive in their government.  In Costa Rica, protest marching seems to be the third most popular group activity next to soccer and making fun of the government. In the U.S.  Occupy Wall Street was a long protest; all of them limited civil disobedience.  Marching and protesting is a mild form of civil disobedience, but it can get you arrested.

I used to think that the best way to protest leadership is to simply turn your back on the leader, that is, everyone gather in their capitols in front of the government building and simply, quietly turn their backs and walk away.  It’s more insulting than throwing a shoe.  However, now I think it would be as futile as any march or sleep-in or what have you.

Like many things that are amiss, when bad laws are passed, we should look for the money.  And also re-educate people.  The laws that have existed since the 1930s proclaiming marijuana a dangerous and addictive drug with no medical uses is an example.  I think the U.S, was the first to declare it illegal, not because it was any of the above, but because blacks and Latinos were using it (before that only proper ladies, et al., were prescribed it for a number of ailments).  Outlawing hemp came immediately afterwards – or maybe it is the other way around.  First hemp, then pot. Some historians say that it was the development of nylon by the DuPont Co. that was the cause for the laws in the United States forbidding the growing of hemp.

What a shame, too.  Hemp was one of the earliest, if not the first crop to be domesticated and it is more versatile than any crop since.  Its uses range from rope to clothing to building materials to milk and historically was used in many countries on every continent.  It is also one of the easiest crops to grow and naturally resists most destructive insects.  No wonder the modern world of manufacturing wanted it done away with.

With the growing acceptance of marijuana in the United States (no pun intended), perhaps hemp once again will be cultivated.  And that is where I think, the changes in laws must come.  First the protests, then education of the people who have been misinformed, then the polls that show the change, and then the signatures in each state or country to change the law, or in some cases, the constitution.  This process has worked in some U.S. states perhaps now in Florida, (for medical marijuana).  That might enable other countries to change their laws, as has Uruguay.

Perhaps this process:  protests; education; polls; and signatures will result in more equality for people of color or the LGBT people, and eventually for women – their right to rule over their own bodies, in short, to be treated primarily as human individuals, not as incubators.

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