Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Chicago- Yesterday and Today

Last night as I watched election returns I got a chill that ran up my spine and gave me gooseflesh. It had nothing to do with the actual election itself. It had to do with the large gathering in Grant Park in Chicago.

Any large political gathering in Chicago can’t help but bring up memories of 1968. The Democratic National Convention was held in the city that year and the iconic and infamous Mayor Daley was not going to be made to look like he couldn’t control his city. The police response to the riots after the assassination of Dr. King had infuriated the Mayor. He was quoted:

"I said to him [the Chief of Police] very emphatically and very definitely that an order be issued by him immediately to shoot to kill any arsonist or anyone with a Molotov cocktail in his hand, because they're potential murderers, and to shoot to maim or cripple anyone looting."

Daley later backtracked on this saying it was taken out of context. However, it was a very "Daley" thing to say.

But 1968 was the year of severe disenfranchisement among large groups of Americans. Blacks were pushing hard at the chains of segregation and the drive for Civil Rights was reaching its boiling point. That April Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated. The young people of America were protesting the war in Vietnam in increasing numbers. A voice that harkened back to the days of the early sixties with the promise of change, of hope and of the dream of Camelot had also been silenced. Robert Kennedy had been assassinated. Both groups wanted their voices to be heard by the Democratic party and the merging of the two groups during the 1968 convention and the typical ball-breaker attitude of Mayor Daley placed a lot of kindling, a lot of accelerant and a lot of matches in one place.

And it exploded. Chicago became the site of a clash between protestors and police. It was violent on both sides and the amount of hatred that filled park was enough to poison everyone. The curfew imposed by Daley was ignored and when the police tried to enforce it, the crowd began to throw rocks. Tear gas and batons were used to subdue protestors. What ensued would later be characterized by the U.S. National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence as a “police riot”.

The trials that followed for the protestors who became known as The Chicago 7 (it was originally the Chicago 8 but Bobby Seale, the only Black defendant, had his trial severed) brought a great deal of unwanted attention to Chicago and so did the arrests of eight police officers for their actions. In the end two were acquitted and five found guilty of crossing state lines to incite a riot. All convictions and most of the contempt charges were tossed out. The trial is remembered as much for the outrageous behavior of activist Abbie Hoffman as the content of the trial. He told the judge "you are a shande fur de Goyim [disgrace in front of the gentiles]. You would have served Hitler better." He later added that "your idea of justice is the only obscenity in the room.”

But last night I watched a different face of political Chicago. And I'm not so sure it had as much to do with who won, but with how invested we became as citizens in this last election. A massive crowd of people gathered. The group was as diverse as the face of America. As they stood clustered together to hear the speech of the President Elect, there was a sense of hope and a sense of peace that our country hasn’t seen since the days of Kennedy and his Camelot. And that gave me a proud sense of national self and hope for what we can accomplish as a people. Not what the politicians can accomplish, but what we the American people can bring to fruition.

Okay folks, now go check out Anny Cook, Kelly Marstad, Sandra Cox, Jenny Beans and others listed to the left who have lots to say.

Don't forget to make sure you come back by on November 12th. I will be launching the first of two Soul Stone contests to celebrate the release of the last book in the Jewels of Ursus Trilogy.


Jenny Beans said...

I think you're right about how much many of us invested in this election. I was saying to Jason yesterday that for the first time it felt like we voted for actual change. Yeah, it's politics, and little can change politics, but socially it's a major statement how much of a landslide Obama won by. So many people are ready to evolve and move onto the next level. It's refreshing.

Anonymous said...

The democratic process is an amazing thing. We all get a say in our government which is why we get emotionally charged over our selections. Because it's important to us. Whether you voted McCain or Obama the selection was made based on the belief that one or the other would be better for this country and the relationships with other countries. But now that it's decided, all should respect the office and support the elected official.

This thing we do where we hound our presidents while they are in office, is futile. Sure we hold them responsible for acting upon their vows but lack of support is just allowing national division. It's a tough job, no matter the party. Praying for his guidance is always acceptable. I just hope that we can be a more united country now than we were at the end of the Bush administration... as a people supporting a leader and loving a country.

Anny Cook said...

I lived in Chicago from 1963 to 1974. Huh, not a place I was happy with at the time.

Sandra Cox said...

What a wonderful blog. Well said.

Bronwyn's Blog said...

What a great blog, Jae! I watched the election results with my fourteen year old son and it was an absolutely amazing experience. At one point, he looked over at me and said, "Are you crying?!" Then he put his head on my shoulder and said, "I'm glad I get to see history being made with you." which of course made me cry harder. I love that kid.