Good Sunday Morning!
As loyal readers, you likely know by now that I write GSM on Saturday. And I usually try to be right on top of the latest news. But today, I am going to take a chance and NOT write about the election results from the two elections happening right now.
With COVID and mailed in ballots, we may not know for a while how things turn out in British Columbia and in Saskatchewan. I am too nervous to think about the results in BC. I am so very proud of all 74 candidates, of a brilliant campaign and especially of our spectacular caucus of my own MLA, Adam Olsen and my dear friend, our BC leader, Sonia Furstenau. No matter the result, they ran the best and most inspiring campaign. I am too nervous to write about it.
And I am also too nervous to write about the by-election in Toronto Centre, where people go to the polls tomorrow. I will be making more phone calls for Annamie Paul tomorrow … All my love and best wishes to our amazing national leader.
So what am I going to write about? Movies!
With the US election and crazy American politics on our minds, there two US political dramas that are well worth watching. The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Mrs. America.
Mrs. America is an excellent 9-episode series (findable on Fx for Hulu) about the efforts to pass the Equal Rights Amendment back in the 1970s. The story focuses on the work of anti-women’s rights campaigner Phyllis Schlafly (played brilliantly by Cate Blanchet) plus a great cast depicting my heroes Gloria Steinem, Betty Freidan (Tracy Ullman is fabulous in the role!), Shirley Chisholm, and Bella Abzug. The film makes a compelling case that Schlafly’s manipulation of the Republican Party not only defeated the ERA but led that party to a dangerous move to the right giving rise to the political power of the Christian Right – with disastrous results for democracy.
Due to COVID, the release of The Trial of the Chicago 7 was moved to Netflix, which I was happy to discover after missing it at Star Cinema. It is the work of Aaron Sorkin and also has an amazing ensemble cast taking us back to the 1968 Chicago convention and a completely outrageous political trial. The dramatization of the events involving Bobby Seale, Abby Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden, with stellar roles for the lawyers and politicos had a very talented cast (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Sacha Baron Cohen, Daniel Flaherty, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Keaton, Frank Langella, John Carroll Lynch, Eddie Redmayne, Noah Robbins, Mark Rylance, Alex Sharp, and Jeremy Strong.)
For me, the whole experience of watching the films was reliving a whole pile of memories. In the late 1980s, I became very good friends with Bella Abzug. Watching Mrs. America with my daughter, I paused the screen every now and then to tell a story or correct something. Like when Bella tells someone it was her mother who told her to wear hats. “No,” I told Cate, “It was her husband.” Remembering Bella’s story (play in your mind with a strong Brooklyn accent):
When I was first a young lawyer, I’d go for a deposition at another lawyer’s office. And I’d go to the receptionist and tell her “Bella Abzug, lawyer for the plaintiff.” And I’d take a seat in the waiting room and nothing would happen and after a while, I’d go back the desk and ask “What are we waiting for?” and the secretary would say, “We’re waiting for the lawyer from your firm.” And I’d say “I am the lawyer from my firm.” So I got so frustrated and I said to my husband, “What do I have to do to get them to recognize I am a lawyer? And Marty said, “Wear a hat. Secretaries don’t wear hats.”
The memories from 1968 were harder to process. I was 14 years old when I was tear-gassed at the Chicago Convention, when the National Guard in their trucks with rectangular screens riddled with barbed wire cut us off in Grant Park, blocking one direction and hundreds of Chicago police in their baby blue helmets started moving into crowds with billy clubs flying. Sharing those memories with my husband brought me back to the moment when I realized that all the protections of civil liberties in a democracy can vanish in a nano-second. In the film, former Attorney-General Ramsey Clark tells the court, “The police started the riot.” That’s what I remember.
I remember being separated from my mom who attended the convention as a delegate for Eugene McCarthy. The ticket she bought for me to sit in the family of delegates section was taken over by Chicago municipal workers with “We love Mayor Daley” placards. So I was there opening night only, sitting right behind Allen Ginsberg. By the next night, I was with the other family members of delegates for peace miles from the convention centre watching the convention on television. After the peace plank failed on the Wednesday night, despairing and sad, a few of us had all walked out into the park in the sunshine. I watched sailboats on Lake Michigan and a Blue Cross softball game in progress. There was no demonstration. But that’s when the military and the police rolled in. We only escaped by making it under an overpass to our hotel door, where we were only let in because we had a room key. I’ll never forget trying to wash the stinging tear gas from my eyes and how it stung my gums because of my braces.
That night my mom and the other delegates had a candlelit march to protest the violence, walking back from the convention centre the several miles back to the downtown. We were shell-shocked.
And now I watch the US. The horrors of Trump and the Proud Boys, the militias and the insane rumours and conspiracy theories. We can all hope and pray that there is a peaceful transition to a new Administration.
For now, fingers crossed we have a Good Sunday Morning!
PS If you want to sign up, I am a panelist and what should be an interesting session:
Tuesday, Oct 27, 2020 11:00 AM Eastern Time
Paris: Getting to a Green & Just Recovery
For program details, visit Scaling Up website: https://www.scalingupconference.ca/program