Yesterday, May 4, 2010, was the 40th anniversary of the Kent State Massacre:
The Kent State shootings, also known as the May 4 massacre or Kent State massacre, occurred at Kent State University in the city of Kent, Ohio, and involved the shooting of unarmed college students by members of the Ohio National Guard on Monday, May 4, 1970. The guardsmen fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis. Some of the students who were shot had been protesting against the American invasion of Cambodia, which President Richard Nixon announced in a television address on April 30. Other students who were shot had been walking nearby or observing the protest from a distance. There was a significant national response to the shootings: hundreds of universities, colleges, and high schools closed throughout the United States due to a student strike of four million students, and the event further divided the country, at an already socially contentious time, about the role of the United States. — Freebase.com
I wasn’t there, but not long after I had sex with a girl who was. Sorry, that’s a close as I got. I missed Woodstock, too. Bad flower child.
While the anniversary has received plenty of media attention, I can’t help but notice that there is little mention of the nation’s attitude toward the protesters (other than the fact of the armed assault). Let me fill in a gaping vacuum.
The marchers were sympathetic, if not formally affiliated, with other peacenik organizations at the time, almost universally derided by the media, academia, and the majority of the American public. Even labor was divided at first – until the kids started coming home in shattered pieces. Their marches and protests were angrily condemned as the activities of spoiled rich kids at best, America-haters at worst, and they were routinely beat up, spit on, and cursed at. In many cities, the police enjoyed free rein, especially where Black people were involved.
“America — Love it or Leave It” was among the nicer things hollered their way. “If you love Russia so much why dontcha live there?” “Commie!” “Get a job!” “Join the army!” Very very few people or organizations stepped up to point out that freedom of expression deserved protection, no matter how repugnant the message. America was conservative, and conservatives supported the country right or wrong, through peace and war, and anybody that didn’t was The Enemy.
Yes, Virginia, the conservatives were the bad guys here, outraged –shocked, shocked –that these dirty lefty drug-smoking radical-liberals would dare to question the war, disrespect the flag, and, worst of all, stop cutting their hair. Freedom of speech my ass – not for THESE scum. Not THIS puke.
So today, when you listen to radio wingnuttery, and hear the teabaggers talk about their Constitutional right to assemble/protest/march/disrupt, etc., how even it’s their duty to talk about overthrowing the government because it’s in the hands of a foreign-born Muslim (who happens to be Black), ask yourself where these conservatives were back when the army fired 67 rounds into the Kent State campus at children protesting what turned out to be a stupid, unjust war. They weren’t there, young ‘uns. They were in the faculty club, tsk-tsk-ing over their gin and tonics. They were in the newsroom making funny cartoons about cavemen on campus. They were warning a yet-unawakened general public that the enemy was within and needed to be crushed as convincingly as evil Charlie over there in VeetNam.
Anyway, that’s my take, 40 years later.
“Have a nice day, John Mitchell.”