My Car Quest

July 4, 2020

Strange Times

Today My Car Quest is not about classic and collector cars but instead about important current events in the USA.

by Mike Gulett –

The coronavirus pandemic is still in process and now we have major social and political upheaval in the US triggered by the police killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a black man.

These are certainly strange times. I do not remember anything like what I am seeing now in the USA and I was here in 1968 but it did not seem like this. Maybe I was naive and not paying close attention then.

Because many of us are at home due to the coronavirus pandemic we have time to watch the news on TV and to see the events unfolding in real time. Many also have the time and inclination to go out and protest in person.

The Constitution of the United States of America states in the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The First Amendment gives the peaceful protesters the full protection of the US Constitution and they must have the protection of the local police. They have the right to ask the government to make changes to address their grievances. The vandals and looters clearly do not have this protection under the law but the police may have a difficult time separating the vandals and looters from the peaceful protesters in some cases.

I am surprised and disappointed at how many police attacks on the press I have seen on TV. This should not happen – one journalists was arrested as he was broadcasting on live TV. These unwarranted attacks are usually followed by apologies from Mayors or Governors. I have seen video on TV of police attacking peaceful protesters when they should instead be protecting the protestors and their right to peacefully protest.

Civil Disobedience

Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau

These current events reminded me of learning about the idea of Civil Disobedience in school many years ago. This concept was introduced into the American lexicon by Henry David Thoreau in 1849 with the publication of his essay titled Resistance to Civil Government (later known as On Civil Disobedience).

Just today I reread this essay for the first time in several decades. Thoreau was strongly opposed to slavery and the Mexican-American War, which could have led to expanding slavery into Mexico. His form of Civil Disobedience was not paying his poll tax, which helped the US government prosecute the war against Mexico. He went to jail for not paying this tax. Thoreau was a man of ideas and words he was not a politician but he is someone that thoughtful people read and learn from.

Some parts of On Civil Disobedience can lead one to think of Thoreau as an anarchist but reading it all it is clear he was not an anarchist but he had strong beliefs about the relationship between individuals and the state.

Thoreau influenced many people over the years including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who used Thoreau’s ideas in On Civil Disobedience, to help shape his own ideas of peaceful protests during the civil rights movement.

We are at a time when Thoreau’s ideas in On Civil Disobedience are still relevant and needed.

My selected quotes from On Civil Disobedience

But, to speak prac­ti­cally and as a cit­i­zen, un­like those who call them­selves no-gov­ern­ment men, I ask for, not at once no gov­ern­ment, but at once a bet­ter gov­ern­ment. Let ev­ery man make known what kind of gov­ern­ment would com­mand his re­spect, and that will be one step to­ward ob­taining it.

Must the cit­i­zen ever for a mo­ment, or in the least de­gree, re­sign his con­science to the leg­is­la­tor? Why has ev­ery man a con­science, then? I think that we should be men first, and sub­jects af­ter­ward.

How does it be­come a man to be­have to­ward this Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment to-day? I an­swer that he can­not with­out dis­grace be as­so­ci­a­ted with it. I can­not for an in­stant re­cog­nize that po­lit­i­cal or­gan­i­za­tion as my gov­ern­ment which is the slave’s gov­ern­ment also.

There is but lit­tle vir­tue in the ac­tion of mas­ses of men. When the ma­jor­ity shall at length vote for the ab­o­li­tion of slav­ery, it will be be­cause they are in­dif­fer­ent to slav­ery, or be­cause there is but lit­tle slav­ery left to be ab­o­lished by their vote. They will then be the only slaves. Only his vote can has­ten the ab­o­li­tion of slav­ery who as­serts his own free­dom by his vote.

If I de­vote my­self to other pur­suits and con­tem­plat­ions, I must first see, at least, that I do not pur­sue them sit­ting upon an­other man’s shoul­ders. I must get off him first, that he may pur­sue his con­tem­plat­ions too.

I saw that the State was half-wit­ted, that it was timid as a lone woman with her sil­ver spoons, and that it did not know its friends from its foes, and I lost all my re­main­ing re­spect for it, and pit­ied it.

The pro­gress from an ab­so­lute to a lim­ited mon­ar­chy, from a lim­ited mon­ar­chy to a de­moc­racy, is a pro­gress to­ward a true re­spect for the in­di­vid­ual. Is a de­moc­racy, such as we know it, the last im­prove­ment pos­si­ble in gov­ern­ment? Is it not pos­si­ble to take a step fur­ther to­wards rec­og­niz­ing and or­ga­niz­ing the rights of man? There will never be a really free and en­light­ened State un­til the State comes to re­cog­nize the in­di­vid­ual as a higher and in­de­pen­dent power, from which all its own power and au­thor­ity are derived, and treats him ac­cord­ingly. I please my­self with imag­in­ing a State at last which can af­ford to be just to all men, and to treat the in­di­vid­ual with re­spect as a neigh­bor; which even would not think it in­con­sis­tent with its own re­pose, if a few were to live aloof from it, not med­dling with it, nor em­braced by it, who ful­filled all the du­ties of neigh­bors and fel­low-men. A State which bore this kind of fruit, and suf­fered it to drop off as fast as it rip­ened, would pre­pare the way for a still more per­fect and glo­ri­ous State, which also I have imag­ined, but not yet any­where seen.

Read all of On Civil Disobedience at this link.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Summary
Strange Times
Article Name
Strange Times
Description
If I de­vote my­self to other pur­suits and con­tem­plat­ions, I must first see, at least, that I do not pur­sue them sit­ting upon an­other man’s shoul­ders. I must get off him first, that he may pur­sue his con­tem­plat­ions too.
Author

Comments

  1. Don Sicura says

    I will no longer subscribe to your newsletter, your forum is one of AUTOMOTIVE information, NOT political commentary, and commenting on your idea of police misbehaving is just that, I am a retired Deputy Sheriff, when journalists become PART of the crowds who are causing the problem, YES they should be arrested & treated like the criminals they have become.

    • tom burnett says

      You’ve misread Mike’s commentary. And I’m not sure what TV coverage you’re watching, but where did you see journalists ‘causing the problem’?

    • Wes Stewart says

      I could not agree more. The hatred of my president because he had the audacity to defeat the chosen one is truly deranged. This deranged hatred has permeated every aspect of our lives and is tearing this country, friendships and even families apart. Now it’s reached this forum.

      I’ve been a licensed radio amateur (ham) operator for over 60 years. It’s an unwritten—but wise—rule that two subjects; religion and politics, were not to be discussed on the air. Even if you are speaking to people who are in agreement, others listening might not be.

      • You say that religion and politics should not be discussed in this forum but you open with a political remark calling others deranged. See, even for you it’s not so easy to keep your own opinions to yourself when they are so important to you.

        • Wes Stewart says

          I didn’t open this discussion, I’m making an observation on the results of the decision to become political. Mike has every right to make his comments, it’s his forum. I have a right to no longer participate.

        • Wes Stewart says

          I should add that contrary to your assertion, I did NOT say that the subjects should not be discussed, only that it is ill-advised to do so. I offer this thread as proof.

          • Sorry, I took your words, “wise”, and “were NOT to to be discussed” at their face value.
            I’ll now amend “not” for “ill-advised”. Got it.

  2. Ira Schwartz says

    Actually, current events remind me a lot of 1968, and those “police riots” in Chicago are starting to look eerily familiar.
    The putative President is fanning the flames, which indicates how desperate he has become to his ensure reelection and thereby delay his prosecution- all at the cost of our civil liberties.

  3. JOHN WETZIG says

    I am a 78 year old white male. I have been a habitual speeder, and accept the possibility of being pulled over. If that happens, I do not expect to have my car searched, or being otherwise bothered. I don’t think a black person feels the same way, and that’s not right. I think that only a small minority of police are capable of the criminal behavior of those Minneapolis policemen, and a similarly small minority of protesters are capable of looting. But to deny that fact is ignorant. There is plenty of irresponsible rhetoric from the right and left. As a society, we need to acknowledge what is real, and move to improve our dialogue, car crazies included. Thank you Mikel for your thoughts.

  4. Bruce Troxell says

    Mike:

    My hat’s off to you for: 1) being a citizen concerned with what’s happening in our country now; and 2) having the intelligence to examine the Constitution, the root of all of our freedoms, and the opinions of learned authors to form your opinion rather than mindlessly regurgitating the hateful rhetoric of our politicians, many of whom seem to be completely ignorant of the Constitution. We need many more citizens who can think for themselves and won’t accept political BS for the gospel.

  5. I can remember Mike wishing Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas but that I didn’t see anyone complain about that even though it was not “automotive”.I

    “…NOT political commentary, and commenting on your idea of police misbehaving is just that”
    Reporting the truth, you know, with cameras, is not political, it’s just fact, which is how we got here with the videos.
    When the police refuse to police themselves then you have a dangerous system. Just ask 40 million black people..
    Police shooting rubber bullets at journalists and peaceful protestors is not how it’s done.

    Ok, back to the automotive stories.
    Policeman shoots an unarmed 22 year old man, who is kneeling, through the windshield of his own patrol car while still in the car.
    Looters steal over 70 cars from a dealership in San Leandro.

  6. David Stein says

    These are turbulent times that require consideration of “things not automotive”. We do not live at a time or place where our hobby can be walled off from society and its ills. I strongly support the occasional “political” statement that requires thought and, perhaps, a consequent change in our behavior and beliefs.

  7. Wayne Watkins says

    Journalists should have the right to record the news peacefully as it happens . Two Australian journalists from a major Australian TV station were assaulted by Police and we all saw it and that is sad .yet when a innocent white Australian woman was killed by a non white Policeman in the same city as George was killed by a white Policeman there were no riots , protests , looting , violence or fires . All lives should be treated equally . We had peaceful protests this weekend for George and the loss of Aboriginal lives in custody and that is how all protests should be conducted . I know this is an automotive forum , but black , white and yellow people all drive cars .

    • Philip Sarris says

      Yes, there are injustices. But to equate 400 years of systemic injustice with that particular incident is just missing the whole damn point. Moreover, it’s negating the African American experience with a false equivalency.

  8. Some subjects are too important to ignore; to not talk about; to not write about and read about; to not have an opinion on.

    The subject of this article is one of those too important to ignore subjects.

    It is more important than classic and collector cars and justifies my use of this space.

    Thank you all for reading and for those who shared their opinions.

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