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I thought the same, and even had a post written... But then found a counter-example:

What about people in Nazi Germany hiding others? They were of course very secretive about it -- not being secretive certainly meant you and your charges being sent to a camp, and possibly outright death. Similar things happened with the underground railroad in the US. I would still gladly classify those people as civil disobedients.

Maybe there's a difference when you're protecting others? You can't risk being discovered, because then those who depend on you will also likely be discovered, and you won't be available to continue helping.

> Maybe there's a difference when you're protecting others?

I think the difference is that if you are disobedient in the (current) USA then you will be dragged through an actual justice system and get the chance to make a case for future law changes etc.

People persecuted in Nazi Germany did not get the chance to argue their case in a court of law or public opinion. They just got taken away.

I don't think that was ever true for the Underground Railroad. And yet, that was still operated in secret. So there's clearly more than the "immediate danger to self" aspect.

Nothing says that the civil disobeyer needs to go out of their way to turn themselves in to the authorities if the act of civil disobedience isn't known by the police. If I plan an act of civil disobedience like say sitting in the road to protest something, and it turns out no one drives on that road and the cops never come, I was still breaking the law. You have to accept the consequences of your civil disobedience, and I'm sure the people sheltering slaves/jews knew that if they were caught there would be consequences that they would have to accept.

I guess there's multiple approaches that depend on your goals.

The martyr approach works well if your goal is to get society to recognize an issue and fix it. It's like an extreme form of demonstrations; the entire point is to be seen and generate discontent. This discontent becomes the energy that changes the status quo.

But if you're not capable of (or uninterested in) changing the status quo, but just want to "do the right thing", then evading detection is a much better approach.

Here are a few: neighbor has terminal cancer. Giving him pot to ease his pain might be illegal but nothing else works or he has no money for expensive drugs. Now if you charge him $400 an ounce get ready for no sympathy.

Or you smuggle a persecuted across the US border it might still be illegal for you but you're breaking the law for a humanitarian reason. However, if you charge $5000 a person, any person from MS-13 to Isis to day laborers bring your toothbrush

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