Thursday, May 04, 2006

Four Dead In Ohio















On May 4, 1970, four students were gunned down by National Guardsman on the Kent State campus in Ohio. To most, it may seem like a cypher now, but it was a defining event in my life, and for many around me. I grew up a few miles from Kent, and was just old enough to understand the ramifications of it. I knew that I didn't want to be drafted and sent to Viet Nam with a gun in my hand, and that peaceful protest was a cornerstone of this country. It was apocalyptic to see innocent students brutally shot down, and the trauma of it is still with me.

While it is true that students, or paid provocateurs, burned down the campus ROTC building, the protests had, for the most part, been peaceful. We now know about the FBI's cointelpro operations, which were designed to inflame the movement and cause it to erupt in violence, and draw support from the moderates away from it. We also know that the governor of Ohio, James Rhodes, ordered guardsman who had just come off of a 30-day miner's strike to the Kent State campus, thus insuring an ugly scene. It was evil, to be sure, but, that's how the game gets played. There are no rules, no referees, and no mercy.

I'm greatly disappointed that there isn't more active protest of the current war in Iraq. While there is no draft in effect, the casualties are mounting on both sides, and, like the Viet Nam war, it is senseless beyond belief. The agenda for war is never for the common good, but is rooted in cold-hearted economics and ruthless opportunism. That we can still be convinced otherwise speaks to the fact that we have learned little from history.

"Naturally the common people don't want war: Neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, IT IS THE LEADERS of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is TELL THEM THEY ARE BEING ATTACKED, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. IT WORKS THE SAME IN ANY COUNTRY."
--Herman Goering at the Nuremberg Trial

2 Comments:

Blogger Jay Matter said...

I'm with you cabbie. I remember that as well. My whole family was affected by Kent State. In fact, I'd say it's when the 60's officially caught up to my family (in May of 1970.) My Dad grew long sideburns and started smoking funny things. He went over to a buddy's house to listen to cool music on the reel-to-reel. We all decided (after Kent state) that we were firmly against the war. You see, we had some relatives fighting over there and we lived in Texas ... so, it took us a while. We were kind of keeping the hair short and riding the fence (as a family throughout the 60's.) But, by the time we saw and heard about Kent State - that was it. My Dad and my whole family were clearly anti-war until like 1980. Then, for some reason, my Dad did another about face and went with the Reagan "christian" crowd. How did that happen? How did perfectly good, educated people end up swithing from liberal, peace-knick hippy types - to hardcore, rightwing "christian" jerks? I still don't uderstand it. But, it did happen to a lot of so-called "boomers." So, I'm disappointed as well. It's like no one even knows what to do ... or how to get started.

But, your thoughts here have reminded me of something deep. For me, Kent State and the murder of John Lennon were those shock-point memory moments ... even more than, dare I say, 9/11.

3:56 AM  
Blogger Blue Gal said...

Yes, you may dare say. The draft had a huge effect on that generation, a lot of the protest was self interest. It is sad that the military has learned the successful lessons here: just keep it a voluntary army and control press access to the battlefield, and you can do whatever you want.

3:13 PM  

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