The Chicago 7: A Review… on American Culture

We’ve come a long way since then… for the worst.

I want to make out with Aaron Sorkin’s words. I love pretty much everything he’s done from the West Wing to Charlie Wilson’s War. When I heard about the “Trial of the Chicago 7” I wanted to watch it immediately, but I have a 2 year old, so I’m on a strict diet of Pixar movies. 

I finally saw it last night and found an extraordinary film encapsulating the polarized nature of American society and its disdain for protest and civil disobedience… but I’m not here today to review a movie. 

Watch this Movie 

It’s a near perfect cast, with Sacha baron cohen delivering a career defining performance and michael Keaton somehow managing to steal the show despite the pedigree of the ensemble. Nearly all of the dialogue is true. The quick, balanced, and perfect dialogue is what you come to expect in a Sorkin release. 

The physical and metaphorical divide 

And yes, the most shocking event to happen to the founder of the Black Panthers actually happened. But this review is not about any of that. 

What Have We Learned? 

[This paragraph CONTAINS SPOILERS] One thing deeply bothered me about this film, and it had nothing to do with the directing, acting, casting or anything of that nature. Throughout the trial, the anti-Vietnam-War protagonists took care to constantly recenter why they were fighting: the war dead. During the nearly 5 month trail, about 4500 service members were killed in the war, and their names were read aloud in the climactic end of the film. 

The shocking thing to me is that in 1968, Americans were willing to run through tear gas, get beaten by wooden battens and stand trial in resistance to a corrupt and violent government, all in honour of 4500 American lives. Today, that number of Americans die of Covid-19 approximately every 36 hours. In fact, about one American is dying every second you are reading this blog. 

It’s absolutely nauseating to me that fifty years ago we had such bold activist-leaders, lifted up on the shoulders of passionate and innumerable supporters. All for the sake of ending the death in an unjust war. When it comes to the needless loss of American lives in 2020, we seem to have lost our way. 

Why? Where has this demand for justice gone in American society? 

Beat it Like the Chicago PD

There is no excuse for A) our government’s incompetent response to the pandemic and B) our pathetic voice in criticising said incompetence. We should be swinging metaphorical battens at our government like the Chicago PD did in 1968. 

If there was a way, I’d be out on the streets daily demanding that this government on a federal level stop the death and for all who are responsible for over 200,000 new cases in a single day to RESIGN IMMEDIATELY. I would happily endure tear gas and a knock on the head if I knew that my peaceful demonstrations would lead to my government acting and saving lives. 

But in the absence of leadership like those of the Chicago 7 the most I can do is write this blog and vote for Joe Biden. 

I am sickened by our US culture that has normalized big-box, wholesale death. We give these idiots who think Covid is just a “kung flu” a seat at the table. I accuse my fellow liberals of being cowards: electing Biden was not enough, 60s activists demanded that the Vietnam War end immediately, we should be demanding the same. 

The Two Wars

The Vietnam War is a near perfect metaphor to today’s war against Covid: Both crises came to be via incompetence from the federal government*. In both cases we are asking American citizens to sacrifice their lives for some vague concept (then: the limitation of communism, now: the health of our economy). 

But the main difference is that the Vietnam War killed around 58,300 servicemembers over 6 years of war, Covid-19 has killed 267,000 people in NINE MONTHS. Our resistance to Covid ought to be proportionally more intense. 

As a postchristian, I must add here that Christianity was on the wrong side of both conflicts: today worshiping in unventilated spaces, and fifty years ago equating communism with godlessness. 

At the end of the 60s a massive movement of dissenters unified and opposed the war, effectively ending it sooner. Where is our movement? 

We Need the Right Martyrs

Abbie Hoffman said he’d call off the protest for $100,000 in an apparent joke. When asked by reporters “what’s your price” to actually call it off, Hoffman clarified by asking what, “the revolution?”. 

His answer: “My life”. 

He would fight to the death for the sake of the soldiers dying in Vietnam. 

Where are those willing to fight so hard for the Americans dying every second from Covid-19? In the absence of the healthy raising their voice, the 267,000 dead (and counting) are themselves the only martyrs of this war. And they die in silence. 

*The Vietnam War was known to be unwinnable early on, but the war dragged on because no president wanted to end the war on his watch.

Author: postchristianity

Professional educator, musician, world traveler.

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