I send my sincere thanks and appreciation to the hundreds of friends who made so many inspiring comments about my post on the Trail of the Chicago 7 movie. Many requested that I comment on the film after I saw it. My comments are long so I’ve divided them into three parts. I will welcome your thoughts and comments.
So many funny things happened in the real trial that never made it into the screenplay. Here are a few examples.
There was a morning in the federal courtroom when the marshals “arrested” a birthday cake we brought into the courtroom for Bobby Seale. There was also a close call morning when my plane was delayed coming from a speech on the East Coast and I was fifteen minutes late to the trial. Bill Kunstler created some pure legal shuck and dive slick talk to stall the court long enough for me to arrive and not have my bail revoked. Bill made an Oscar-winning performance that only he could pull off. I walked into the courtroom to a great collective sigh of relief from the audience as Bill proudly smiled at me for arriving not a second too late. Then there was the day when we wanted to show the press how prejudice Judge Hoffman was towards the defendants. We sat at the defense table moving our feet in a panic with an anxious look to make it perfectly clear that we needed an urgent pee break now. We wanted the world to see that no matter the situation, the Judge always ruled against every defendant’s motion, period. Bathroom break? Motion denied!
We also invited celebrity singers who had agreed to come to the Yippie festival of life but were stopped by the police riot. We wanted our performers to explain to the jury why they couldn’t accept our invitation to come to Chicago. Many singers, like Judy Collins, tried to sing the song she was going to sing at our festival before the jury. Of course that caused a loud defendant glee from the defense table and hysteria from the Judge’s bench.
Since our fun and humor took over the courtroom almost every day I could go on, but I will finish with one precious moment when Mayor Daley took the stand, and the court had to take a break while the Mayor was still on the stand. During the break, while the jury was out of the room, Abbie stood up and challenged the Mayor to an arm wrestle. Abbie said, ‘lets you and I settle this whole thing right here and now. It was funny. Even the Mayor laughed.
The real trial put the U.S. government on trial. The real trial ignited the college and university community coast to coast into a massive protest movement too. When I would speak after a day-long trial and the Governor of the state decided to call out the national guard for the occasion, I would have to speak in a stadium. Every night after the trial, a normal college audience was 10,000 people. What created our power to put the government on trial was not eight people in a Chicago courtroom but tens of millions of students whose passionate support for the defendants changed the entire country. We had profound support from high school students too. None of this vast youth passion is even mentioned in the Chicago 7 movie.
While the movie is very timely and its impact is appreciated, it doesn’t convey the power of the people that elevated our trial of the American government onto a global stage.
I am glad the movie was made. When you watch the movie—which you should—you can find out what actually happened from two chapters in my book The New Humanity—A Movement to Change the World. It’s at Amazon if you want to know the non-fiction story.
On the opening day of the trial, the NY Times wrote the trial of the Chicago 8 was the most significant political trial in American history. Any movie that tells this story today is going to inspire the next generation currently embracing black lives matter and resisting the rise of America’s authoritarian regime. Yes, the movie could have been better if it simply conveyed what actually happened without any of the fictions that never happened, but it is still conveying the protest trial of the century.
One of the fictions I particularly liked was the closing final scene. I won’t spoil it for you, but it was a riveting courtroom action that actually happened in an earlier part of the trial. Sorkin put it at the end, and it was beautiful and moving.
My wife Kirsten watched the movie with me, and she thought it might be time for a scorched Earth approach at DreamWorks. That was her first response but then she shifted into her usual hope and optimism. “There must be a producer somewhere who wants to tell the real story of the Chicago 8 and how you put the U.S government on trial at the end of the Sixties.” I thought to myself, I would gladly speak with that producer myself.
Did you know there was a public survey two weeks before the Chicago convention that showed a majority of voters supported the war in Vietnam? Two weeks after Chicago, the same public survey showed a majority of the American public opposed the war in Vietnam. That tells you why it is important to remember that a single demonstration fraught with difficulties and unexpected challenges can sometimes change the world.
Understanding that the Sorkin film was never intended to be a replica of the actual trial is a good way to watch the Trial of the Chicago 7. That way you feel no need to knit pick its inaccuracies. Netflix told me I should think of the movie as a painting rather than a picture. Okay. That’s another way to see it.
I write these three posts so my FB friends can remember what actually happened in Chicago and that putting the government on trial is needed again today.
Before the movie was even released, there was buzz it would be nominated for best picture and that the Bill Kunstler and Abbie Hoffman actors should be considered for Oscars. Let’s hope that happens because the movie does bring back a time we may need again today.
Hard times and challenges are coming. As temperatures climb and aquifers deplete, mass migrations will cross international borders with hundreds of millions of displaced people while food distribution chains go snapping. We can all sense this is a time like no other. As our Republic erodes, and a new generation experiences an age of extinction, the Chicago 7 trial is a movie that can help us remember millions of people united, marching, voting, and growing their own food can live and thrive while creating the future of humanity. We know who we are. We are a global family, and we are a new nation on Earth. I see us as a nation of hope that needs to remember we have done it before, and we can do it again today.
HOPE 11-11 GLOBAL ACTION
We’re igniting the largest movement in human history
Join us on November 11, 2020, as we gather to spread hope to all corners of the globe. We will weave a tapestry of thought-provoking, solutions-oriented conversations, inspirational songs, and performance art pieces in celebration of hope, and uplift our minds, spirits, and the frequency of the planet through a globally synchronized meditation to activate hope and restorative balance.
“I have been in amazing events that basically were about changing the world. Make the world a better place. If I put together all the impact of every single event that I have ever participated in, it would not hold a candle to the HOPE 11-11 event! Its significance cannot be understated.” Rennie