Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it.
The great danger for American democracy is not from the protesters. That democracy is too poorly realized for us to consider critics — even rebels — as the chief problem. Its fulfillment requires us all, living in an ossified system which sustains too much killing and too much selfishness, to join the protest.
Is there equality before the law? At every stage of the judicial process–facing the policeman, appearing in court, being freed on bond, being sentenced by the judge–the poor person is treated worse than the rich, the black treated worse than the white, the politically or personally odd character is treated worse than the orthodox.
To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.