Saturday, April 5, 2008

Chicago 10 and Mistakes

"The cumulative effect of Morgen's film is one of inconsolable sadness...Sadness that the college-age generation for whom Morgen's film is obviously meant will not learn from it that protesters had the opposite of their intended effect. In 1968, the demonstrator's chants aroused the so-called Silent Majority."

Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer

Gosh, I thought I was escaping the Silent Majority when I trained in from Chicago's western suburbs to join the anti-war protests. Would we have all acted differently if we had known that we would contribute to the further rise of the Reagan right? I hope so. Unfortunately, that's a dilemma of taking action.

I was mesmerized by the anger and passion of the protest footage contained in Chicago 10, less so by the antics of Hoffman and Rubin in the courtroom. But I did feel like Rickey and others that the film failed to "connect the dots," recognizing and exploring the limitations and mistakes of political action of this kind and its relevance for today. There was no learning, just Yippie talk and the swinging clubs of Chicago police.

In Nonprofit Leadership I recall the pathetic self righteousness of some protesters who seemed to enjoy getting hit and the vitriolic words of suburban commuters who cried in anger that the protesters should just be shot. My takeaway was not to give up on protest -- but to pursue, when I could, a more civil kind of small "p" politics.

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