“Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?”

The quote I’ve chosen to focus on is, “Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?” This is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s work “Self Reliance” written in 1841. When I think about this I feel ashamed. I know Emerson would have made the last choice, but most of us today make the first. We gripe and whine about the government and their ways, especially in the South, but rarely do we make any significant effort to do anything about it. We sit around and just go with it. Occasionally people will make a slow movement towards fixing a problem, but hardly ever is someone influential and radical enough to propose and bring forth immediate change. To me, this quote is a call to action. It encourages us to speak out against what we feel is unjust.

Emerson wrote “Self Reliance” in the 1830s. During this time, “the concept of so-called “civil rights” was essentially unknown in 1830s America. While the election of Andrew Jackson to the presidency ushered in the so-called “Age of the Common Man,” the benefits of this “age” were almost exclusively restricted to white males. Although technically barred in the “Northwest Territory,” slavery and the keeping of African slaves was practiced in nearly every state and territory. Indian people were regarded in nearly the same light. Women’s right to vote would not become a reality until after the turn of the Twentieth Century.”
These are some of the issues people faced at this time. Emerson was advising people to stand up for their beliefs, fight for what’s right, and not to conform to societies standards. In fact, this whole work revolves around being a nonconformist. This directly correlates with the quote I chose. Emerson is warning the people too not get comfortable the way things are and accept it, but to instead stand up and make a difference.

Picture of an American city in the 1830s:


The quote I chose I still very applicable to today. Now, more than ever, people sit back as the government passes unjust laws. However, great leaders have stood up. Many women fought for women’s suffrage and eventually got the 19th amendment passed. Over 120 years after this work was written, a influential man named Martin Luther King Jr. stood up and made a difference. Now we have equal rights. We need more strong men like him to take charge and make a difference. One of today’s hottest debates is over the issue of healthcare. A new healthcare plan has been proposed. “When key parts of the health care law take effect in 2014, there’ll be a new way for individuals, families and small businesses to get health insurance. Whether you’re uninsured, or just want to explore new options, the Marketplace will give you more choice and control over your health insurance options.” http://www.healthcare.gov/marketplace?gclid=CPiLrby4jrYCFQ-znQodMxEAfQ

Martin Luther King Jr.


Video of Preident Obama explaining healthcare:

The fact that governing is trying to control the healthcare business and who has insurance has really put a lot of people on edge. Following Emerson’s advice, those who oppose it should speak up and not let government rule unjustly. It will be interesting to see how this issue plays out because the outcome is unknown. What can be known is that we can all learn from this quote by Emerson.


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