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I should note, for the record, that I am an
average person, with dreams and aspirations as
lofty as any, and immediate needs as meager as
all. I can identify with all humans on one level-
the right to exist, free of abuse, containment
and undue seizures or treatment. These are the
foundations, (albeit re-phrased) of the basic
rights set forth in all the documents drafted by
America’s founders. The wording of these
documents is, in most cases, general enough as
to be applied in greater scope as people become
more enlightened. Some issues, such as slavery,
were initially allowed in, and had to be amended
when the nation, as a whole figured out what
was wrong. (Too bad it took several generations
and a war to just fix the paper on that one!)
Similarly, including women’s participation in
the voting process was a detail not stated
expressly in the Constitution, but one which the
language does not in any way deny. The absolute
sexism of the day had to be overcome.

Even now, we have yet to see, as a nation,
the true, boundless aspect of those words
penned on hemp, and finally parchment, over
200 years ago. Merely substitute ‘human beings,
for ‘man’, and the words, as if magically, apply
to everyone.There’s no need to state any
further definition or intertpretation. Percieving
the main body of works from this point of view
instantly points out the contradictions that may
occur, such as the issue of slavery, (which
should never have been there) and omissions in
common practice, such as the women’s right to
vote, (which should never have been in
question, and should not have required a
constitutional amendment) These antiquated
notions are but clinging vestiges of the politics
of the past, of dollars invested. It was men with
power, putting off ‘just this little bit’ of
humanity so as to protect their investments.
(Nuclear weapons ring any bells,here?) They
are, more importantly, proof that our
government has always been vulnerable to
special interests, fear of invasion and and
unscrupulous behavior on the part of it’s
members. All of this has occurred here, in spite
of the fact that our’s is the first nation on earth
founded on the premise that the citizens are in
control of the whole process.

This is not like 600 years ago, when a Lord
or landowner could butter up the king, or all the
dukes on the way up if he had to, and end up
‘owning’ your land, now suddenly demanding
taxes or your life. We were set up specifically to
avoid that problem. Today, the problem exists as
much as ever, with political and corporate
groups constantly dogging the government for
favors at every level, throwing barrels of
money at every congressman they can, hoping
one of them will bite, and using their influence
to write, change or ‘get around’ a law that
affects their business. There is one very
important difference.

This time we have let this happen.

Henry David Thoreau’s ‘Essay on Civil
Disobedience’ was, at the time, a call to honor
for all Americans. It dealt mainly with the
issues of slavery and taxes. He was really big
on the whole tax thing. It took up a major part
of the essay. The only other big problem he
mentions at any length is slavery. He was
vehemently against it as a concept, and he
saw inclusion of it in the Constitution as an
absolute outrage,in every way. When it came to
taxes, though, Thoreau had mixed feelings. He
pretty much objected to owing taxes to the
state just because you are alive and you live
here. He persistently avoided and outright
refused to pay most taxes on many occasions
(and if not for generous friends, would have
spent more than one night in jail for it), but
curiously, he had no problem paying the
highway tax. The logic binding these
is the idea that a government should only tax
for what they need to do for the citizens, as
decided by the citizens themselves. He saw no
problem with supporting education,
but he preferred to help in that area with his
expertise rather than his pocketbook. In any
case, freedom from unfair taxation was one of
the basic reasons for the inception of this
country, and Thoreau was proper to point out
the inequities of the government in that area.
His work still stands today, merely inserting
‘racism’ or ‘bias’ for ‘slavery’, ‘U.S.A.’ for
‘Massachusetts’ and the politician of your
choice for ‘Daniel Webster’. You can leave the
rest pretty much intact, and you will be amazed
to discover how relevant it still is in today’s
society. There is a catch, though.

Thoreau wrote at a time when the nation
was new and still getting it’s legs. The spirit of
the revolution was still alive, as evidenced by
the war with Mexico (which Thoreau was
completely against). The danger of the new
government falling into old feudal ways had a
forboding nearness to it. This is what caused
Thoreau to write his call to civil defiance.
His views mirror the protesters cries against the
Vietnam war, the anguish of the Civil Rights
Movement, and, unheard in most of society,
(ignored today as well) the tax burden on
the low income citizen. His plea for integrity and
law-breaking was meant in only that way. Fight
the bad laws by breaking them. This idea, sadly,
has taken on a vastly different meaning.

Americans nowadays are cynically resigned
to the concept that they cannot win, politically,
in any way, and must live with whatever the ‘fat
cats’ in the government want to do to them.
Since they think the fight is unwinnable, they
take out their frustration on each other,
exercizing their right to ‘Civil Disobedience’ in
such patriotic ways as parking in handi-capped
spaces, weaving in and out of traffic at will,
writing checks in the cash only line, and calling
911 for directions.

What follows is a series of essays on modern
times. I hope some of you agree.

If not, at least you’re thinking, for pete’s


copyright 2000 Pegwood Arts all rights reserved 

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