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The Whole World is Watching (Still)

A Flash Review of Aaron Sorkin's The Trial of the Chicago 7


Hailey Nicole Warner

Disclaimer: I am part of Generation Z. We are characterized by our narcissism, entitlement, and our instant-gratification dependency. We have never been drafted, we’ve never ducked under desks for bomb drills (school shooter drills though—plenty of those), and we’re on track to become the most educated generation yet. Before Covid-19, we were set to escape the economic sludge that slicked the millennial’s trajectory, but now so much is unclear, and many of us are calling bullshit on the whole thing.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a dramatization of the court case that followed the anti-Vietnam protests in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic Convention. In the film we see Chicago Police hide their badges. We see them teargas and attack protesters. We see military-grade force and walls of rifles. Police administer beatings like it’s personal.

What’s changed? It looks like nothing. Half a century later we’re protesting the institution of policing itself. The chant “No justice, No peace, Abolish the police” is our defining call, meaning: we cannot trust or accept an institution born of violence that values property over people.

The chant popularized during the anti-Vietnam war protests “The Whole World is Watching” mirrors the anticipation and urgency that’s radicalized folks of all ages over the past six months, but we feel distant from those who demonstrated in Chicago. Sometimes, especially when you’re young, it’s easy to think of slow-moving change as stagnant time—this is not true, of course. Without the framework given to us by previous generations of organizers and civil rights activists, we’d be lost. Perhaps it’s historical parallels that generate our sense of urgency. Peace and love is dead; we want radical change.

This year, protestors showed out with a force that hasn’t been seen on the streets since the 1968 Democratic convention. Their message: Fuck your property. Stop killing black people.

It’s important to note that before the convention, protests erupted nationwide in response to the murder of Martin Luther King. These went on for weeks. Months. The demonstrations in Chicago lasted only two days. But they accomplished a lot: 11 deaths, 500 injuries, and 2,150 arrests. What else? I’m not sure. The trial woke up the country, I guess. The sight of Black Panther Bobby Seale bound and gagged was hard to erase from people’s minds.

broken image

But here we are again. History has made our generation lose hope that the system will ever work the way we need it to. For many 18-23 year olds, this year’s candidates aren’t all that different from each other. (We’ll still vote, don’t worry.) But we’re tired of being told that change is a slow burn. (Who said that, anyway?)

In the beginning of The Trial of the Chicago 7, Tom Hayden said to a group of students, “When it comes to social justice and the war, there’s simply not enough of a difference between Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon.” Biden’s policies look good—no more corporations profiting on incarceration, no more criminalizing poverty, clemency for drug charges, police accountability—but how can we forget his past?

Whether or not Biden makes good on his promises, or if the unimaginable happens and Trump gets re-elected, this generation, America’s most ethnically diverse, will be pushing radical ideas to the mainstream. I don’t know if we want to be seen, but if the world is watching, we hope you’re excited, and if not, we hope you’re terrified.

Hailey Nicole Warner is a senior majoring in creative writing at San Francisco State University. She is interning at Journal of the Plague Year. She was born in Paradise, California. (Yes, the Paradise that was incinerated in the Camp Fire.)

The Whole World is Watching: The Strategy of Mass Protest

Hailey's Playlist

Down With the Clique :: Solange

Noname :: Song 32

Love :: Always See Your Face

Brian's Playlist

Somebody Is Watching ::: Pop Staples

Down By The Riverside ::: Ollabelle

Illuminati ::: Sarkodie

American Dream ::: JS Ondara

Fear Itself ::: Loudon Wainwright III

Martial Law ::: Lou Reed

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