EDITORIAL: Reflections on Chicago
|May 28, 2012||Posted by Kathryn Seidewitz under Personal Reflections, Print Issues, Stories, Volume 2, Issue 4 (July/August 2012)|
Back at high school after the protests, everything is the same. The kids act as if nothing has happened, because, to them, nothing has. To them, the only things different about you are the bruises on your legs and the awful hoarseness in your voice. They talk about prom and the end of the year, while you remember.
You get quick flashes. You feel your body being wedged in between two strangers, your arms stretched and linked with your friends, unaware of where they are. Your only assurance that they are okay is the crook of their elbow lodged in yours. You see the mouthpiece of the megaphone as you clutch it, yelling, your voice a raw tool of your dissent. You smell the downpour of rain on asphalt as you sit on the ground in a peace circle before springing up moments later in a spontaneous embrace with your comrades.
You read somewhere in a magazine article by a woman who had been to Tahrir Square that she spent 90 percent of her time sitting in coffee shops and talking. That knowledge, the knowledge that not every moment in a revolutionary’s life is filled with meaningful moments is the only thing that gets you through the lunch period.
Looking back, the pictures look very different than how you remember the day. Were there really that many people? From your spot at the front of the march, you could hardly grasp the magnitude of it.
Was there really that much violence? There were incidences where you were caught in the crowd, pushed and squeezed, but they were quick and fleeting. The majority of the weekend was walking, standing, and talking. Marching through the streets of a new, foreign city you’ve fallen in love with. Talking to the riot police that remain stalwartly silent and appear disturbingly uncomfortable as they push you back. Standing in the crowd as you watch men and women throw their medals at the war machine that created them.
And what about the fearsome black bloc? They were not scary anarchists, but your friends. You knew and marched with many of them. Not just in Chicago, but also in your own hometown. They were funny and intelligent people. At times, in fact, you found it adorable how they could never manage to stick together because some of your friends kept on stopping them for photo ops. But these friends seem to take the center stage, not as the thoughtful people who radicalized you seven months ago, but as a mass of black.
You knew, however, as you drove over a thousand miles to get there, that the weekend would not be depicted accurately. You knew that the people you were protesting would not listen – just as when you protested at the White House the president did not hear you. But this time, the rest of the world was ready to listen. And, even though the reality of the weekend had been distorted, they did. For the first time, you heard murmurs (buried beneath the news of the black bloc, the police violence, and the numbers) of the real reason you were there.
And after it all, when a reporter asked you what you hoped everyone would learn from the weekend you replied, slightly flustered and exhausted, “Fuck imperialism.”