At the beginning of the semester I found myself struggling to make any meaningful connections between struggles seen in Ireland and America. I was met with a wave of relief upon hearing that I wasn’t the only one struggling. As the semester drove on and we started to have better discussions in class I started to pick up on some common themes simply from hearing one of us discuss them in class when talking about different works.

Now, at the closing of the semester I’m amazed at the progress I’ve made in my understanding of the connections between the two countries at the time. This culminated in our discussions of our final papers where I was able to listen to the points that were made in a number of papers and get an idea of where you were deriving your thesis from before you started to explain it. One of the more concrete examples is the role hope played. I think that coming into the class I was looking for more tangible connections in the form of policy or structure rather than a feeling. But feelings make up so much of what we discussed. You don’t simply set out to partake in a social revolution without having some sort of strong feeling about the matter.

Another connection I did not foresee making was the importance of religion in both countries. MLK used religion in an attempt to draw a wider audience to the civil rights movement whereas religion was a key divider in Ireland. Religion obviously played a major role in inspiring the Catonsville Nine to act. Again, this was not particularly what I was anticipating being one of the connections between the two situations.

Had you asked me anything prior to the class about the connections between Catholics in Ireland and blacks in America in the year 1968 I would’ve told that there were none. Looking back, I can name a number of them off the top of my head.

Endless Cycle

One of the major themes that have developed from this class this semester for me is the idea that many of the events that occurred are just a part of a cycle that occurs every few decades in societies. As changes occur, there are reactions to the changes, and that oftentimes can lead to conflict. This happens again and again and again, the question that begs to be asked is, how do we change that? The answer, I think, is that we can’t but more importantly, we shouldn’t. Activists such as Tom Hayden and others are so important to the process of society. The work they do, fighting for what they believe in, no matter what that is, is what makes human interaction so great. We can all believe differently, discuss them, and oftentimes disagree, but hopefully, bring about progress.

            The texts that were discussed this year all show that belief. Every text highlighted characters or real people being passionate about what they believe in and allowing their life to go with how their passion guides them. This is especially important today when social media and the interconnectedness of society makes it so that someone with a passion really can make a change with that. 

            However, it is clear from the texts and society today there is another aspect to the societal cycle that is a lack of civil discourse that comes too few and far between in arguments online or in-person. There is so much anger, so much division today, but that was evident in Trial of the Chicago Eight and Martin Luther King’s works. Some things, it seems, have not changed, and as I said, I don’t think they will. In some ways that is good, in other ways, that is bad, but it is just the world we live in. 

Our Experiences Shape the Times

As the semester has gone on, one of the most interesting and intriguing points for me that our literature has explored has been the idea of witness and how one interacts with and reacts to the events that are going on around them. Whether it be the Irish writers during the Troubles or the various American actors in the Civil Rights Movement, each person’s story that we have read and discussed has provided a different viewpoint into the conflicts and conversations going on at the time. Why did each person react the way they did?

If we want to have an answer for this question based on personal experience, we can look at 2020 to provide a perspective. Why do people go out and march on the streets for BLM? Why do people beg and plead for others to wear a mask and make socially distanced decisions? There is a motivation and a desire for some sort of change or call to action. As people, we see the world around us and want to make changes where we see injustices and wrongdoing. I argue, we want to see a world where justice and peace reign supreme. Each person will make choices and decisions so that they can achieve their view of a better world.

As we read, the Chicago 8 wanted to combat the injustice that they saw in the Vietnam War. MLK Jr. wanted to end the racial systemic injustices in the United States and advocate for a loving and peaceful solution to seek change in the racial relations of America. Bernadette Devlin and Eamonn McCann wanted justice in Ireland. Each of the people we read about saw the world around them and acted in hopes of making it a better place than the one they were experiencing at the moment. This insight into their lives was an interesting way to learn about 1968 and provided the most authentic representation of the times. With all of the strife, violence, and viewpoints of the long 68, these perspectives and real experiences allowed me to understand the different forces, movements, and people acting together at this point in time.


With this semester closing on a certainly seminal moment in American history, I would like to take this time to encourage everyone to restrain themselves when returning home. This is not one of those “how to educate your Trump supporting uncle” posts – In fact, I voted for Trump and am proud of that. This is a post about civility. This idea can be applied to anyone in your life. There are very few things worth dying for, or burning a bridge – family is one of them, and cutting them out or devaluing them in any way is a ridiculous way to organize your priorities.

The danger of a sustained conflict within the United States is certainly more real than ever – with a significant portion of American’s believing that the Democratic party stole the election, and another significant part believing that the current commander in chief is simply a Cheeto colored version of Adolph Hitler – it doesnt suprise me that tensions are high. After all, if both sides view the other as not just wrong, but inherently evil, there are very few things left on the table as a means to communicate or mediate.

Therefore, I encourage everyone to make amends with anyone you’ve intellectually jousted, verbally boxed, or mentally sparred within your past few years attending our lady’s university. Use these ten weeks to reconnect with your family, your childhood, and your friends. Build good habits, read good books (I recommend C.S. Lewis, Doestoevsky, or even Tolkien) – come back to next semester ready to conquer your challenging academics.

As tense as things can be at the moment, they have not yet reached the point we have seen in Northern Ireland. There are not balaclava clad militant Catholics armed with ARs(Armalite Rifle not Assault Rifle – that’s a made up term) shooting up police stations. So in all seriousness, reconnect with your family. Remember who you are and where you came from.

Unnecessary Sacrifices

Throughout the texts we have read, there are a lot of sacrifices. Dr. King went to jail because of his peaceful protests and was ultimately assassinated. The Chicago Eight and their protestors suffered police brutality and were jailed. The Catonsville Nine also sacrificed their personal freedom in protest. Huey Newton was shot because of his leadership in the Black Panther Party. In Ireland, Bloody Sunday resulted as a retaliation to the protests. Bernadette Devlin was jailed because of participation in the Battle of the Bogside, which itself saw many civilians beaten and arrested. While some sacrifices were imposed on the activists by the government and law enforcement, many were voluntary and fueled by anger. Although the theatricality created by voluntary sacrifices undoubtedly radicalized more people to join the protestors’ movements, I question how much actual change the voluntary sacrifices brought about and whether it was worth the pain.

At the beginning of the semester, I wrote a blog about what the average civilian’s life looked like in 1968 in the US and Ireland. When reading Vinen, it seemed to me that only the most notable events were captured by history, but the people involved undeniably only made up a very small portion of the general population. The silent majority, then, remains largely unbeknownst to us. But we do get a glance at their stance on the protests: according to Vinen, the largest protests after 1968 were actually conservative and in opposition to the radical protests. Therefore, it seems like 68’ mostly failed regarding actual social and political change, a conclusion consistent with Eamonn MaCann and Geoff Brown. So, what are 68’s lasting effects?

I believe that the most important lasting effect of 68’ is the records from the period, including literature, news, videos, etc. I hardly knew anything about 68’, but by reading the texts this semester I felt the anger and frustration experienced by the activists. Although the events of 68’ have long passed, the records continue to impact the general population. We live in a society where the majority rules, so any real change must come from a change in opinion of the public, no matter how small: everybody’s slight lean towards change is much stronger than one group’s complete radicalism. Therefore, the lasting and small impact of these records is much stronger than the immediate actions during the protests themselves.

So, how much lasting impact on the public did the voluntary sacrifices add on top of the imposed sacrifices? As an uninformed outsider to 68’, when I read the texts this semester, I was most moved by the authentic stories and frustration expressed in the memoirs such as Hayden’s and Newton’s. Those are imposed sacrifices. But my suspicion quickly rose when I saw active provocation of police and violence. For example, in the movie “Trial of the Chicago Seven,” when the someone shouted and the crowd charged the police, I quickly distanced myself from sympathizing with their cause. Although the kind of behavior was totally reasonable given the frustration and anger, it gave the public the reason to offput the protestors as disturbing order. Even martyr-like behaviors, such as those performed by the Catonsville Nine, felt forced and gave me a sense of “I am not good enough to do that.” Therefore, voluntary sacrifices are much less likely to influence the public than imposed ones, which give the oppressors and the public no excuse.

As a result, I think protests are most effective when they are long-term, committed, and reasonable. Protestors need to put pressure on the public, making them pick a side, but not so much to distance the public. It would still be very difficult to bring about change, as evidenced in the nonaction of the white moderates in King’s speeches. However, King’s movement from start to end witnessed very little voluntary sacrifice, outside of that imposed on it by law enforcement. Therefore, it gave the public no excuse, which arguably allowed King to be entered into history textbooks as a “hero-like” figure. Although the depiction may not be accurate, it nonetheless influenced and continues to influence every person growing up in this country, which I think is arguably the best outcome of protests.

Deja Vu

As the semester comes to a close I have been reflecting on this course as a whole and wondering what to talk about in my final blog post. I finally settled on the concept of similarities between 1968 and 2020 and how these two years have been incredibly similar to one another. We have seen this year more than any other in the 21st century I believe a return to the movements that characterized the 1960s and 70s.

I believe that when we look at 1968 and the Civil Rights Movement and 2020 and the Black Lives Matter movement we can see that the two are not so different from one another. This summer we could see that the BLM Movement really took off and it was characterized by images that we also saw in 1968, protestors facing off against heavily armed and organized police officers. I think further to this we can also see that the use of technology has similarities between the two years and while undoubtedly we are better connected than ever the fact that we like people in the 1960s are watching these events play out live has an aura of specialness around it as I feel that we are as they were, living through history.

I think that also the issues of the presidential election and Brexit give cause for us to evaluate the political situations in both of these years as we can see these polarizations have caused rifts in communities in both the United Kingdom/Ireland as well as the United States.

Good Witnesses

As the end of the semester comes up, I am reflecting on what the role of witnesses are in the grand scheme of history. It seems to me that there are many different ways to be observers of history without even knowing it. Of course, there are plenty of people who seem to have awareness of the gravity of things around them. However, this is often the role of the radicals. People like Eamonn McCann, Huey Newton, Daniel Berrigan, and others know the importance of the situation at hand. They would not be taking such serious action if they believed it was not a historic moment. Revolutionaries certainly seem to ascribe to Lenin’s, “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” The question is whether or not this sentiment is shared with the general public. The critical factor for remembering these events is that many of these “radicals” are the ones writing about it, at least in popular history. Did the rest of the population actually see the late 60s as a time of historic importance the same way the radicals did? Truthfully, I don’t think we can answer that question with any confidence. When asked if the late 60s were significant, almost everyone who experienced them said that they were and that they knew it. However, this is probably largely influenced by their memories changing based on what the narrative was. Someone who watched the riots at the DNC on TV is going to say it was a big deal to them at the time, but how much is that simply what they are supposed to remember? Do we truly understand the significance of what is going on right now in 2020? I don’t think so, mainly because our memories of this year 30 years from now are not going to be the same as our experiences. How can we be good witnesses if we are told what to remember?

Right Side of History

As we have read about the bloody conflicts that occurred in the United States and Ireland in the 1960s, a common theme that has presented itself every week has been the right side of history. As the professor mentioned, it wouldn’t be right to say that there are winners or losers in these types of situations, especially in the case of the civil rights movement seeing as it is arguably still going on today. Yet, there is no doubt that when we learn about history, we are given biased teachings based on who we presently believe was right or more justified morally in their actions. I have been drawing many connections to what we have been reading in class to what is occurring presently in the United States. Between the Black Lives Movement, election, pandemic, and more, tensions are at an all-time high as many are fighting for change in the country. During the height of the election, many of us were in a frenzy. Personally, I was making posts daily telling people to vote, sharing information on policies that people should be aware of, participating in phone banks, and more. On social media sites such as Twitter, content regarding the election ranged from serious to joking. One post I saw consistently on my feed, though, was the discussion of being on the right side of history. This reminded me of a blog post that I read earlier this semester about who will be remembered and how. It has given me a very “meta” perspective as things are slowly unfolding in current events today. Could there be a class such as this one in 50 years that solely focuses on the events and conflicts of 2020? What literature will the students be given? Perhaps instead of memoirs, they will be provided with different Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook posts that were being made at the time. Perhaps they will also be experiencing years similar to 1968 and 2020 as they are taking the course. As an aside, movements such as this one are reflective of the growth in a country. If everything were peaceful for long periods that would indicate that the country is at a cultural standstill. Since things naturally evolve, social movements are healthy and important parts of democracy.  So, hopefully, during the future class, movements are happening that students can compare to previous years. As they notice trends of who is on the right side of history, I hope that they fight to be on it as well. Perhaps, this would make conflicts less bloody and allow change to happen more easily with less resistance.


At the beginning of the semester, I wrote a blog post on perspective. Perspective is very important to this class and especially when looking at the events we have read about this semester. Perspective is important because it influences an individual’s views about the events and experiences around them.

When looking at the trail of the Chicago Eight, the perspective of the judge is important because it influences the trajectory of the trail. The judge has hatred toward the group of eight and especially Bobby Seale. This hatred was shown in the courtroom and the way that the judge interacted with the defendants. Perspective is important in this trial because this hatred fueled the tension and the outcomes.

            In the Price of my soul, the perspective of Bernadette Devlin was very important. Her perspective led her to fight for what she believed in and to lead the people in her movement. Her increased tension and feelings toward her views inspired others and ultimately fueled her followers. Perspective, ultimately, influences and strengthens the views of people around them.

Summer of 2020? or 68?

Throughout the semester, we’ve talked a lot about how history repeats itself. 1968 was a year undoubtedly characterized by civil conflict and violence, with every piece of literature, plays, and movies we watched affirming that. The release of the Netflix movie The Trial of the Chicago Seven, just a couple of weeks ago, brought the feelings of pain and injustice of the Vietnam War back into the forefront of discussion in the media. The scenes in the movie made it very difficult to distinguish the summer of 68 from the summer of 2020.

This summer, we saw the mass mobilization of people in streets across the country and the world, protesting racial injustice and police brutality in support of the BLM movement. Violent stand-offs between law enforcement and citizens. A looming presidential election that caused a divide between Red and Blue supporters. And, amid the prospects of political and cultural change, an inescapable pandemic: tens of thousands of Americans dead. The summer of 2020 was an unprecedented and historic one. But it is undeniable how similar it seems to the summer of 1968, with the looming presidential election of Johnson and Nixon. Instead of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tragedy that cost American lives was not the Vietnam War. Racism was also central to the protests, with MLK Jr. just being assassinated.

The parallels between the two years, over fifty years apart, is remarkable. Patrick first drew the connection between the Vietnam War in 68 and the COVID pandemic in 2020 being similar during class, and at first, the two did not seem closely linked at all. However, upon seeing the Trial of the Chicago 7 movie, it makes more sense. The unjust deaths of American soldiers in the Vietnam War were the forefront of the protests, and with thousands of Americans dying due to the pandemic, I think is only time before people begin to protest how the American government has handled it. These are unjust deaths as well, as we see countries across the globe who have successfully been able to control the pandemic to minimize deaths.

This semester could not have been a better time to take this class.