Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Jedediah Purdy: Why I Got Arrested in Raleigh: The States Are the New Front Line:

Henry David Thoreau, another privileged white guy who spent a night in jail with good company and pleasant jailors (mine were uniformly polite, and some were friendly), reported in "Civil Disobedience" that by resisting the law he hoped to make an appeal from the people - the present majority that was accepting slavery and the Mexican-American War - to themselves, that is, to their higher consciences. That's why civil disobedience makes sense, and why it's part of the compact a civilized country makes with itself. Submitting peacefully to arrest is a way citizens tell one another that an issue is very important, that it might be worth real attention and thought. In a noisy time, it's a way of trying to start serious conversations.

Thoreau also reported that, when he got out of the Concord jail, he headed to a nearby hilltop to lead a huckleberry-gathering expedition. I think he meant that, whatever you do in politics, you need to stay connected to your own real sources. The wild blueberries aren't ripe yet in the Grayson Highlands, a few hours away, but delicious wild mustard greens are everywhere, and chanterelle mushrooms are beginning to come up in the woods near Chapel Hill. They aren't illegal, yet, and I'll be scouting for them later today.