The definition of morality is being able to distict what is just versus what is wrong depending on your values and morals. Martin Luther King jr. was an acclaimed civil rights activist that fought for equal rights for black americans during the civil rights movement of the 60s. One of his best writings was A Letter from Birmingham Jail; a piece King had written in jail after being arrest for breaking an unjust law against political demonstrations. According to King one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.
He believed in a law higher than the laws of man. To him, a law was just if it was in accordance with higher law and if it helped to make someone a better person. In Sophocles’ play Antigone, Antigone was a young girl who fought for the right to bury her brother, Polyneices after King Creon deemed him a traitor for fighting against his people as revenge after being exiled from his fatherland.
Morally Antigone was right for burying her brother because she followed her morals and inner instinct, she went against King Creon who was a bad leader, and she followed natural law, a law higher than Creon’s. Much like King Antigone welcomes, and even loves, the idea of death if it means fighting for what she believe in morally. Antigone is sentenced to death by her uncle, King Creon, for the crime of burying her brother, Polyneices. Instead of the slow and painful death she’s sentenced to, Antigone hangs herself during this time.
King writes “If a man has not discovered something that he is willing to die for, he isn’t fit to live” (King 2). In this quote, King is explaining his believe that everyone should have a drive to fight for something they believe in. For Antigone that was burying her brother, Polyneices.
Her determination to bury him came from her strong believe that what she was doing was morally right. Her drive was strong enough and passionate enough that she did end up dying for it. Antigone says to her sister, “Sister, forbear, or I shall hate thee soon, / And the dead man will hate thee too, with cause. / Say I am mad and give my madness rein / To wreck itself; the worst that can befall / Is but to die an honorable death.” (92-96) Antigone explains soon enough that she may be crazy for going against Creon’s laws by trying to bury her brother but she will allow her madness to end itself and the worst thing that could possibly happen from her fighting for what she believes in is dying a honorable death much like Dr.King. Being a good leader means that someone is humble, thoughtful and unselfish. Instead of accepting kingship as a duty, King Creon maintains the throne as his unquestioned right and rules.
Thebes by his own will, rather than for the good of the people. Because of Creon’s narrow mind he only thinks of himself, not the good of the people, which causes him to lose many dear family members. Creon was not able to lead well, because he let the huge amount of power he had go to his head. His pride and selfishness clouded him from using good judgement. King writes “I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends”. In this quote Dr. King believed the use of violence to be immoral, even when one was using violence to stand up for their own human, civil and legal rights, But He believed it was even worse when one had a moral obligation to obey the law, but that laws were used for the purpose of denying the civil and human rights to people.
King If the laws were wrong, it’s wrong to support and follow them. Just because you have a piece of paper saying what you’re doing is legal, it doesn’t mean what you’re doing is right legally doesn’t make it wrong morally. In the beginning of Antigone, Creon refuses to let anyone give Polynices, Antigone’s brother, a proper burial, because he “dishonored” his country and family by fighting against Thebes. Creon believes that burying Polyneices will cause him to lose his power and control, because Polynices was Creon’s enemy. Creon clearly states that any man or woman who disobeys his laws by burying Polynices will be punished with no exception. By enforcing the law, it shows that Creon lacks sympathy for the beliefs of his people and his family, Antigone. Creon is a cruel leader who does not care about the needs of his people. “An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law”. From this quote and those of the previous answer, we can see that King believed in a law higher than the laws of man.
To him, a law was just if it was in accordance with higher law and if it helped to make people better. King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, he speak about an unjust law and the importance of fighting against unjust laws in the name of making the world a better place. ‘It is impossible to know any man I mean his soul, intelligence, and judgement– until he shows his skill in rule and law. I think that a man supreme ruler of a whole city, if he does not reach for the best counsel for her him I judge the worst of any man and anyone thinking another man more a friend than his own country, I rate him nowhere.’ (195-204) Antigone explains that You can never really truly know a man until it comes to political law. She goes on to say that you see the true colors of a person when they become the supreme ruler of his own country. Creon is arguing that the law is the basis for justice, so there can be no such thing as an unjust law. Antigone, on the other hand, believes that there are unjust laws, and that she has a moral duty to disobey a law that contradicts what she thinks is right.’What law of God have I broken? Why should I still look to the gods in my misery? Whom should I summon as an ally? For indeed because of piety I was called impious. If this proceeding is good in the gods’ eyes I shall know my sin, once I have suffered.
But if Creon and his people are the wrongdoers/let their suffering be no worse than the injustice they are giving out to me.’ In this quote by Antigone she claims she is not broken a law of God aka a divine law, yes she may have broken the law of king Creon but she Claims that king Creon and his people are the wrongdoing so she hopes their suffering will be no worse than the suffering and injustice they are doing upon her. An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Morally Antigone was right for burying her brother because she followed her morals and inner instinct by burying her brother even if it meant dying for him. She went against King Creon who was a bad leader and she followed natural law, a law higher than Creon’s. Antigone is in example of a female activist who isnt afraid to fight for what she believes is right. By burying her brother she goes against King Creons moral and unjust laws to not only follow her insint but to also to stand up for what she believes in.