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Seek the consent of governed

Editorial

March 30, 2006

Civil disobedience has a long, rich history in the United States. Henry David Thoreau, author of "Walden" and "Civil Disobedience," famously protested America's war against Mexico.

In "Civil Disobedience," he wrote: "The authority of government, even such as I am willing to submit to ? for I will cheerfully obey those who know and can do better than I, and in many things even those who neither know nor can do so well ? is still an impure one: To be strictly just, it must have the sanction and consent of the governed."

Americans since have demanded that consent of their government. During the past few decades, the Civil Rights movement, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., stood peacefully and strongly against racism. The peace movement of the 1960s and early '70s protested the Vietnam War.

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This week, students in Newport-Mesa have joined others across Southern California in staging walk-out protests of proposed anti-illegal immigration laws being debated in Washington, D.C. Students from Costa Mesa and Estancia high schools went to Costa Mesa City Hall on Monday. On Tuesday, students from TeWinkle Middle School and Newport Harbor High joined them in peaceful rallies.

Now, this is by no means meant to compare the thousands of Southern California students' actions with those of Thoreau or King and his compatriots. Judging by the comments of some of the students, it's clear some are at least as interested in getting out of class as they are in protesting changes to immigration law. It also is by no means meant to condone students' skipping classes in order to march on City Hall, though it is safe to say that some lessons in life can't be learned in the classroom.

What the protests do show is that the immigration issue, besides dividing the Republican Party in Washington, is no simple slam-dunk for Costa Mesa leaders who are trying to make the city the first in the nation to have local police enforce immigration laws. The students' marching ? not to mention a gathering planned for Saturday that is being organized by the same people who brought together 500,000 in downtown Los Angeles last weekend ? should make it clear that going ahead unilaterally is an unwise and unsound move.

At the very least, Costa Mesa city leaders should realize they do not have the full "sanction and consent of the governed" when it comes to this issue. They would do well to continue seeking that backing.

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