Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 released over the weekend on Netflix. The movie tells the under-acknowledged history of the trial of seven protestors who the Nixon administration saw as responsible for the riots that took place during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
The movie itself, which stars Sacha Baron Cohen (in a serious role), Eddie Redmayne and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is phenomenal. The movie does an incredibly complex and vital piece of history the justice it deserves. The movie even did a fairly decent job portraying the Black Panthers. Admittedly, it could have spent more time on the injustices they faced as an organization — but that wasn’t the plot of the movie.
Despite how great it is, the movie leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I couldn’t help but shake the chilling realization that what happened in Chicago on Aug. 28, 1968, is still happening in America today. The film serves as a reminder that as a country, we are still in many ways racist, divided and repressive.
2020 is arguably the most turbulent year in America’s history since the late-1960s and early 1970s. We have a
corrupt and unpopular presidential administration, a large-scale civil rights movement and a divided populous. The pandemic is the cherry on top of this, but the issues we’re facing are not caused by the pandemic: the seeds have existed for decades, and recent events have just inflamed them.
It’s undeniable we’ve made progress since the 1960s. We gained civil rights for Black people for the first time in our nation's history in that decade, but these changes haven’t solved many of the root problems, and new ones have not been addressed. The Black Panther Party, and its leaders featured in The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a perfect example of this.
Bobby Seale, the Black Panther wrongfully on trial with the rest of the Chicago 7, drafted the Panthers’ original 10-point plan with Huey P. Newton. The plan called for an exemption for Black men from military service, adequate housing, education on Black history, full-employment and an end to police brutality, among other things. No rational person could argue any of these measures have been achieved for much of America, let alone the Black community. That is why we’re seeing mass-protests.
Another issue the film tackles is Abbie Hoffman’s idea of a cultural revolution versus Tom Hayde’s belief in progressive political mobilization. It’s not hard to see how neither of these goals were achieved. Large segments of our culture have arguably become more conservative. Also, not a single president since 1968 can be seen as a true progressive. Yes, one of our most progressive presidents since the 1960s was a Black man, and that means something. That considered, it’s apparent he doesn't qualify as a progressive in this context.
It’s not hard to see that Joe Biden was our equivalent to 1968’s Hubert Humphrey, the candidate who sparked the DNC riots. For fairness, Joe Biden is a lot better, but he probably aligned a lot closer to Humphrey than George McGovern or Bobby Kennedy in 1968, the candidates akin to Bernie Sanders. It’s also not hard to imagine that if the pandemic never happened, Biden’s nomination in Milwaukee would have not gone through quietly.
As for the Chicago 7’s primary goal, pushing America to exit Vietnam, not much has changed on that front, either. All of my fellow college students have only known a world where America is constantly engaged in imperialistic conflicts. Despite all the uproar from the 1960s’ yippies, students and left-wing activists, nothing has changed. Young, working-class men will continue to be slaughtered in meaningless conflicts under the orders of millionaire politicians and oligarchs.
So, yes, the film is phenomenal. Sadly, it left me feeling angry, angry that I, too, feel the same contempt for my government Abbie Hoffman felt all those years ago; angry that Black people are still fighting for the causes Bobby Seale devoted his life to; angry that Tom Hayden’s vision of a progressive electorate may never come to fruition; angry that nothing changes.
Noah Wright is a senior studying strategic communication at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Noah? Tweet him @NoahCampaign.