Thoreau was a Transcendentalist but came out of strict Calvinist tradition, and lived in a sort of loose communion with Ralph Waldo Emerson (whose Divinity School Address to the graduating class of Harvard Divinity School got him barred from entering the campus forever after. Why? Because he told the class to think for itself) and others. They were free thinkers and allowed themselves the full rein of their intellect while hewing to a strong moral code. They knew right from wrong and were not afraid to speak it.
We have a great tradition of thought in America. One not burdened by centuries of adherence to kings or churches, popes or dogma. Yet we've allowed ourselves to slip out of a deep sense of right and wrong. Why should issues of gay rights and gay marriage have confused and separated the country? Do we have such a tenuous attachment to right and wrong that we have to scourge those who would acknowledge and celebrate a state of being that has persisted since the beginning of man? Better to look at ourselves as a moral people in terms of our personal actions, and examine our desire to be part of a group to the detriment of our individual sense of what is right. I speak of the need to be part of the herd, to not raise our voice because our neighbor may hear, to cast a stone because the crowd surrounds us. To avoid asking the hard questions, such as: Why have I tolerated the restrictions of personal freedoms because of a perceived external threat? Why have I accepted that individual rights must be abridged for the overall 'good' of the nation? Why am I so afraid of not being liked that I will stand by when someone is being attacked for speaking the truth? Why am I willing to accept corruption in government if I see it in my own political party? Or my church? Or my social movement?
Thoreau's most famously quoted statement that a man must keep pace with his own drummer, however measured or far away, is part of a deeply American tradition. A tradition that we are proud of for a reason. It takes courage, and we honor that.