I was completely surprised when I started and couldn’t stop crying at the end of the movie, The Trial of the Chicago 7. That’s a really rare occurrence. A lot of buried trauma there it seems.

The trial was related to the antiwar (Vietnam) demonstrations in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic Convention.

I was a senior at Scattergood Friends School when I turned 18 (1969), the age at which all young men were required to register with the Selective Service System.

Although we didn’t watch television at the School, when at home we saw the war play out on the news everyday.

As a Quaker, I applied for and was granted Conscientious Objector status, to give me time to figure out when to turn in my draft cards. Although I wrote a lot about struggling with that decision, I don’t think I ever really doubted I would resist the draft. The struggle was trying to get my parents to accept what I was going to do. They were fine with Conscientious Objector status, but not with the prospect of a prison sentence.

I felt betrayed by their opposition to my decision to resist the draft. Looking back I can be a little more understanding. Ironically, just this evening I heard this: “As a parent, the one thing we can’t do is silence our child’s spirit,” Brandon Boulware said in a speech about his trans daughter. 

At the time I knew how the decision would determine my path through life. If I chose the easy way, I would likely never stand on principle for anything. I still believe that. I finally couldn’t wait any longer, and turned in my draft cards over my parent’s objections.

I wrote many blog posts about Vietnam and the draft. I kept a Journal during those years.
vietnam | Search Results | Quakers, social justice and revolution (jeffkisling.com)

[I can’t help but smile at the WordPress link that says “save draft”]

I helped my friend Don Laughlin put together stories he had collected about young Quaker men facing conscription before he died, including his story and mine. Here are those stories:

Young Quaker Men Facing War and Conscription

I think another part of my dismay relates to being more closely connected to and witnessing the injustices, violence and deaths suffered by my native and black friends. Especially the ugly turn of politics and legislation destroying civil rights and liberties and trying to prop up white supremacy.

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2 Responses to Tears

  1. Liz says:

    I find I cry much more easily these days too, including at the end of Trial of the Chicago 7. I suspect it has something to do with my own healing as a white person who was conditioned and socialized to disconnect from people and events around me, to “not see” race, to “mind my own business” and “not be a tattletale.” Those repeated messages from peers and from adults older than me were training me to lose empathy.

    The years 2016-2020 were another sort of training ground for me, I think. Overwhelmed and feeling powerless to interrupt the systemic oppressive policy and legislation erupting from DC, I focused on very local concerns and on family concerns. I didn’t have capacity to let myself “feel my feelings.” And the 2020 pandemic took my emotional state of disconnection and manifested it into a lengthy period of physical isolation, especially in winter before the hope and prayer of a vaccine—along with a change in Washington DC—breathed new spiritual and emotional life into me.

    What I know experientially about grief is that it isn’t linear or predictable; it comes in waves. We never know when it will arise or fall away. Today’s grief or sadness can touch on “old grief” that hasn’t been visited for a while, as well as grief that has never been adequately acknowledged or validated. Grief can be layered and companioned by anger and even by joy or gratitude. It lives in the body as well as in the heart and mind.

    Grief ignored, though, can lead to destructive rage or suicidal depression. We’ve seen inklings of those impulses too, most recently during the failed coup attempt on January 6, 2021.


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