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Letter From Jail-Emotional Appeal, Essay Example

Pages: 5

Words: 1507

Essay

The purpose of this essay is to convince the reader that there is no right or wrong time to intervene when one knows something is wrong.  People often struggle with this decision not out of fear, but out of respect for a person’s right. We live in a multicultural society that has enlightened us to the diversity of the human experience and taught us the value of respecting differences. Yet, is respecting differences a “categorical imperative”? Must we respect differences in all situations?  Although we should respect others’ differences, certain situations require us to determine if respecting one’s differences is the greatest good. For example, if one saw a parent severely beating a child. Many religions teach that spanking a child is appropriate. However, what I might see as appropriate and what another parent may view as appropriate may be entirely different. As a fellow human being, I don’t believe I could watch a parent beat a child severely without intervening. In his letter, Dr. King discusses the many letters of criticisms he has received. He said that many deemed what he was doing as “unwise and untimely”. Is it ever unwise to fight for what you believe in or is there ever an appropriate time to do so? Blacks had been in bondage in one form or another (Slavery or Jim Crow laws) in the United States for hundreds of years by this time. So, when would be a good time to say enough? Dr. King goes on to say that he is there because of his religious and organizational affiliations. He conveys that because of his religious beliefs, he is like Paul. He is writing a letter to the people because he hopes they are educated enough to understand him and make the necessary changes. Next, because of his leadership of the Southern Christian Association, he has been invited to Birmingham. Finally, he says that he is there because injustice exists there.

Dr. King is quoted saying, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. First, Dr. King is appealing to logic. He wants the reader to understand that although you may not be the person facing the injustice; it is quite possible that the tables could turn away from your favor. In today’s society there are many ways people try to prevent crimes from happening. For example, most neighborhoods have watch organization and signs posted in the neighborhoods. The signs are used to deter would be criminal from breaking into or vandalizing property.  Citizens are aware that if they sit idly by and allow criminals to break into their neighbors homes, their homes will be next on the list. Or, if no one in the neighborhood was watchful, many could be next on the list of stealing and vandalism.  If nothing was done to criminals for breaking into and vandalizing people’s property, this type of behavior would spread from neighborhood to neighborhood. Dr. King says, “Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny”. It’s only logical; when we fail to intervene, we are destined to be affected somehow by the same scenario.

Later, Dr. King uses ethos to appeal to the reader. He discussed the proper protocol for intervening in a situation. Essentially, he makes himself the expert because he has lived the situation.  I believe he is discussing this because often people are quick to make assumptions. Dr. King believed that one should monitor the situation before reacting to it. Often people who are not affected by a situation may see it in a different light than those who are directly affected. Many felt that the time was not the right time. That is any easy statement for someone to make who has never been oppressed. Obviously, the oppressor does not want anything to change because the oppressor is reaping the benefits of the labors of the oppressed. Three hundreds years of oppression is an awfully long time. When one is in a situation of oppression, there is never an appropriate time to fight for freedom. Most times it just happens. For example, women in abusive relationships have been known to leave their oppressors in a spurt of the moment action. They may leave in the middle of the night with only the clothes they have on.

Finally, Dr. King appeals to pathos. He wants the reader to realize that breaking the law is a big deal to him and others. Having anxiety over breaking laws is common for people who are usually law abiding citizens. Nonetheless, there are times when one must break the law or exercise their civil disobedience. Dr. King says that a just law is a law that is inline with one’s morals and God. In other words, one may have to determine if a law is in line with one’s morals and beliefs or the particular situation the person may be in. Stealing is considered wrong, but if I needed to feed my starving children I would do it. Speeding is against the law, but a man trying to get his pregnant wife to the emergency room would speed. There are countless examples of scenarios that would require you to break man’s laws. Dr. King uses countless examples of biblical examples to convey his point. He discusses the account in the bible of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refusal to pray to idol gods. The young men were up against unjust laws made by the King, Nebuchadnezzar. The moral of the story is that because the three young men stayed true to their beliefs and religion, they were rewarded by God. This is the essence of what Dr. King believed.  Christians of this time were faced with lion dens, chopping blocks, and stoning. Members of the Civil Rights Movement faced angry mobs, dogs, water hoses, jail time, and bombings. Nonetheless, they were willing to face all of these obstacles that could lead to death. Dr. King knew that eventually, society and government had to agree with righteousness. According to the Christian teachings, every person is equal in the eyesight of God because we were all made in his image. To deny African Americans the right to live and enjoy individual freedoms was directly against the teachings of Christ. So, above all, Dr. King felt that discrimination was a direct conflict of what God’s law to man. To degrade a human being because of the color of his skin was unwise. Dr. King went on to discuss how difficult it was to explain to his daughter that she could not participate in certain activities because of the color of her skin. He goes on to convey how this probably made a young child feel.

I believe that Dr. King felt he, as well as other human beings,  had a moral obligation to try to make the world a better place for future generations-especially his children. Living is not really living when you have to abide by rules that take away your individual freedoms. I believe this is similar to Plato’s Cave analogy. When a person does not realize what is being done to him is wrong, they are more apt to stay and take the treatment; but when he realizes that people all over the world are enjoying freedoms he can only dream about, the time to do something has come. Dr. King used Paul quite a bit in his letter. Paul was spiritually blind about how people should be treated. Then, Jesus made him physically blind in order to open his eyes and reveal to him that what he was doing was wrong. When thinking about the struggles that African Americans endured, their story has been told in so many ways by vary scenarios that people have encountered. The experience that the nation encountered with the Civil Rights Movement is something that was not taken lightly. Some many people, of various ethnic backgrounds, were willing to complete selfless acts in order to bring attention to a bad situation. So many people lost their lives, but in their loss we live.

In conclusion, Dr. King’s letter was the first insight for many people as to why African Americans felt the way they felt during the Civil Rights Movement. He does not use any fallacious appeals to logos, but he does assume that the reader believes that having equal rights is a God given freedom to every human being. For the first time, many Whites were able to view the struggle from the point of view of the oppressor. Dr. King was eloquent with words and proved that all African Americans were not ignorant. In fact, some of the diction and analogies he used may have been difficult to understand by some of the poor, white people who were trying to enforce segregation-obviously he was writing directly to those who supported segregation. 

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