Sunday, December 06, 2020

The Chicago 7 (8)


I recently watched the Trial of the Chicago 7 on Netflix. This was the trial of a group of mostly young men who had been behind the organisation of a mass protest against the Vietnam war in Chicago in1968. The Chicago 7 were a group of unaffiliated persons who represented hippies and ‘Yippies’ (Youth International Party), the Black Panthers, student activists, and sundry anti-war groups.  Representing the Yippies were Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman. I had read much of their writing when I was a much younger man and it was largely due to them that I decided that I would never visit America.



Leftist activists of the late 1960s in America used to refer to 'Amerika with a K' to highlight the fact that the Anerican ideal of peace and equality was a just a dream for many. They argued that many Americans lived in poverty and hardship, experienced daily racism and other forms of prejudice, and that the system perpetuated these inequalities. Whenever they spelt Amerika with a K it was to remind people of these injustices.

I remember though that I was not sure about Hoffman and Rubin's ideas. I couldn't decide  whether they were just drug crazed hippies, violent and unstable revolutionaries, or heroes. After watching the Chicago 7 it was clear that in this instance they were heroes.

When Trump was elected President many of us were in shock. Noam Chomsky wasn’t: “I’m surprised that it took us so long. This America has always been there and now we have a President that represents the very worst of America.” And seeing the ugly side of the law crush the protest in Chicago, and shaft these ‘ringleaders’ in a sham trial just reminded me that this foul underbelly of America has been around for a long time. Recent images of armed white vigilantes on American streets in support of Trump are just the most recent incarnation of this lawlessness and disregard for those who stand up against the ‘American way’.

I relented on my promise to myself never to go to America when I was invited to go there for work on a number of occasions from the mid-80s. I thoroughly enjoyed it and found the average American to be very friendly, genuine, and hospitable.

Would I choose to go there now? I have friends there I would like to see and Trump is about to depart the scene. For now. But the fact remains that 70 million Americans revealed their stupidity and selfishness by voting for this divisive character a second time.

Despite the fact that the average American may be a decent human being, four things loom as cancerous blots on the canvas of this nation:

  1. Racism
  2. Guns
  3. Lack of universal healthcare
  4. Homelessness

These are 4 pillars of a gutless society that refuses to step up to the plate and genuinely assist those citizens who suffer most, and move America more into line with Europe, Canada and Australia. And how Obama could be characterised as a devil for wanting to implement health care for those who have none is just beyond me.

Hilary Clinton was right to describe Trump devotees as deplorables. Her mistake was doing it in public. As I watched the Trial of the Chicago 7 come to its stirring conclusion I felt proud that I knew about Bobby Seale. Jerry Rubin, and Abbie Hoffman back then as an 18 year old. I felt my decision to keep away from America was vindicated – I had made the right decision.

That a country so deeply flawed in so many aspects of civil society has managed to parade itself as a leader among the free world, and a  beacon of democracy, is one of the greatest con jobs ever wrought on the planet.


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