Sunday, May 4, 2008

Dead Air Church: May 4, 1970

Kent State student John Filo's Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of Mary Ann Vecchio discovering the slain Jeffrey Miller.


38 years ago on April 30, 1970, Richard Nixon announced that military operations would be expanding into the neutral, peaceful country of Cambodia, which had the bad fortune to share a border with Vietnam. Viet Cong insurgents were said to be hiding in the mountains of Cambodia. (In fact, the USA had already been conducting a secret bombing campaign, unbeknownst to the general public, engineered by Nixon and his butchers, named Alexander Haig and Henry Kissinger.) These illegal, immoral, reprehensible acts were the acts of criminally insane men, who had just realized they were losing their filthy, insane, extremely expensive war.

The result of this announcement was demonstrations on many American college campuses over the next few days. Nixon had promised to end the war, and proved to be a liar. The anger of the youth who would fight this war was palpable. At Kent State University in Ohio, demonstrators burned down an ROTC building. It was never known if this was deliberate or just an act of vandalism that got out of hand. Ostensibly due to this event, Governor James Rhodes declared Martial Law on the campus of Kent State University and sent the National Guard onto the campus. He also held a press conference in which he made famous inflammatory statements: "They're worse than the brownshirts and the communist element and also the night-riders and the vigilantes," Rhodes said. "They're the worst type of people that we harbor in America. I think that we're up against the strongest, well-trained, militant, revolutionary group that has ever assembled in America."

On May 4th, a demonstration was scheduled for noon. There were about 2000 people gathered for the demonstration, and about 1000 troops on campus. For unknown reasons, the Guard decided to break up the demonstration, and ordered the crowd to disperse. They were met with rocks and flying debris. The Guard responded with tear gas, and it was on.

I have read multiple versions of what happened next. Several facts dominate these versions: the kids were returning the tear gas cannisters (which do POP loudly like guns when they go off) and the Guard seemed very confused and didn't know what to do. At one point, none seemed sure of which direction to advance, but advance they did. At 12:22 PM, after guardsmen had advanced to the top of the hill near Taylor Hall and the parking lot, they turned and fired. They commenced firing for 13 seconds and fired 67 M-1 semiautomatic bullets. They wounded nine students, and murdered four in cold blood. Only two of these four students, Allison Krause and Jeffrey Miller, were actually demonstrating against the war. The remaining two, Sandra Scheuer and William Knox Schroeder, were merely changing classes.

No one knows who gave the order to fire, if anyone did.

The kids in the National Guard were the same ages as the kids on the campus. These kids were all facing the same reality--the males of both groups were trying to avoid going to war. One group could afford college and the other could not, but could somehow get into the Guard. There is no question there was significant class hostility directed at the college kids by the Guard; the males in the Guard were closer to actual combat in Vietnam, although William Schroeder attended Kent on a ROTC scholarship and may well have intended to become an Officer himself.

From this incident, we learned that even the pampered children of the middle class were expendable. We learned that totalitarianism can erupt quickly and suddenly, particularly in small, contained areas where there exists considerable class hostility, panic, and loaded weapons. We learned that the Governor of Ohio was a fascist and a murderer, as was the President and his henchmen, all of whom nodded approvingly at the murders at Kent.

The lines were drawn very clearly, especially for me. I woke that morning in Ohio, to see that my state was all over the national news, all over the newspapers. We had various Moments of Silence for the next week. Everyone seemed to know someone involved. My grandmother cried and explained to me that these students were exercising their civil rights, and had been shot for it. "You have to remember this," she told me.

In the subsequent lawsuits, the families received an average of approximately $63,000 per student.

~*~

18 comments:

Abbadon said...

We learned that the Governor of Ohio was a fascist and a murderer, as was the President and his henchman, all of whom nodded approvingly at the murders at Kent.

Kent State was a national tragedy.

I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat. I was a Democrat for 28 years. I'm still socially Left, but I gotta say that's laying it on a bit thick.

Daisy said...

Abbadon, thanks. I intended to.

ZenDenizen said...

Thanks, this was a much needed post at this scarily similar juncture.

Ravenmn said...

Words cannot descibe my hatred towards Governer Rhodes and his willingness to stir up trouble. He practically begged those National Guardsmen to kill student activists. And when they did, Rhodes pretended he had nothing to do with it.

"These kids were all facing the same reality--the males of both groups were trying to avoid going to war."

Well, no shit, Sherlock. If only we had been able to make that connection to each other back then.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

And the back of my mind supplies, "... we're finally on our own ... this summer I hear the drumming ... ffour dead in Ohio ...."

(For someone my age I've got a lot of relevant MUSIC in my head.)

Daisy said...

Kiya, that's the song in the video.

(I'm not sure where the trio of girls eating ice cream comes from, inserted in the middle of it?)

Abbadon said...

Abbadon, thanks. I intended to.

To what end, I have to wonder...

Hyperbole like that begets hyperbole in kind from the opposite end of the spectrum. Neither serves any good purpose.

I cringe when I hear those on the Right refer to those on the Left as terrorist sympathizers and such.

Oh well. I guess it makes everyone feel good.

Daisy said...

To what end, I have to wonder...

Hyperbole like that begets hyperbole in kind from the opposite end of the spectrum. Neither serves any good purpose.


As Mr Ramone Smith of the last thread can attest (HI RAMONE!), I used to write a column in the late 70s/early 80s, and hyperbole was my stock and trade, just like Tom Wolfe. That's who I am and consequently, that is how the words come out.

I enjoy writing that way stylistically, and incidentally, that IS how I think about certain issues and events in particular (Kent State is definitely on that list)--and I am patently unable to write in a style that is alien to my thought processes. Sorry about that.

I cringe when I hear those on the Right refer to those on the Left as terrorist sympathizers and such.

But as we know, the Left is right and the right is wrong. :) Otherwise, I might cringe, too.

As it is, I expect them to act like people who are wrong. And they never disappoint me.

Sugarmag said...

Thank you for this, Daisy, Kent State was before my time (I'm 34) and a tragedy like this should not be forgotten. I love your writing.

CrackerLilo said...

I remember reading about Kent State, and not believing that our government could/would do such a thing, and crying a lot when it sank in. It prepared me psychologically.

I recently got into vintage Cambodian rock music. The Vietnam War made and then unmade this music, by first opening Cambodians' ears to rock and roll and then opening up a vacuum for the Khmer Rouge to fill. I fervently pray that someone 30 years hence won't be "rediscovering" the lost rock and pop music of, say, Iran.

Abbadon said...

I'm not above using hyperbole but it is unfortunate that many seem unable to recognize the difference between hyperbolic editorializing and factual reporting, especially with the advent of the internet and blog punditry.

But as we know, the Left is right and the right is wrong. :) Otherwise, I might cringe, too.

That's a rather broad and not very accurate generalization. Not terribly open-minded either. What was that comment you left chez moi about the open-mindedness of all Deadheads?

As it is, I expect them to act like people who are wrong. And they never disappoint me.

As I said, it cuts both ways, Daisy.

Daisy said...

That's a rather broad and not very accurate generalization. Not terribly open-minded either. What was that comment you left chez moi about the open-mindedness of all Deadheads?

If I wasn't open minded, I wouldn't let Republicans comment on my blog, now would I, Abbaddon?

Some people don't, ya know! :P

Abbadon said...

What makes you think I'm a Republican?

Because I'm not.

I'm not a Christian, either.

Nor am I opposed to same-sex marriage.

Or medicinal marijuana.

Or a woman's right to do with her body as she sees fit.

I am an ardent supporter of the Second Amendment (as all "Liberals" who fear the taking of their rights by the Bush Administration should be but oddly, seem not to be).

I am opposed to appeasement of those who would destroy any human through a peace-at-any-cost policy.

I am a relative pacifist.

I am proud of the US and our collective accomplishments. It is pride born of living in and traveling to some of the worst Third World shitholes on the planet that are governed by corrupt officials that take our money, neglect their people and badmouth us at every turn.

Most "Liberals" I encounter badmouthing this country have never left its borders.

I firmly believe that some people need killing because they are damaged beyond repair.

Is that all anathema to you?

Or just some of it?

Am I a "Republican" in your eyes merely because I take exception to hyperbole borne of an I-hate-all-Republicans-because-I-am= blinded-by-my-hatred-of-George W Bush-attitude?

I have Republican friends, Democrat friends, Libertarian friends and Wiccan friends. I don't judge people based on one aspect of their political point of view. And I don't make assumptions about others based on one aspect of their politics, either.

Daisy said...

Abbadon, you talkin to me? Cause I'm the only one here.

Who exactly are you soapboxing to? Because you seem to be talking to someone else. For starters, I'm not a liberal, I'm a LEFTY. For this reason, 1) I do not expect you to agree with me and 2) don't care if you do or not. That's just how it is, since my leftism is well-tempered with a certain southern cynicism and libertarianism. If you have read my Ron Paul posts, for instance, then of course, you know that already. (Likewise, my other political posts.)

It seems like you have invented a "paper liberal" to argue with and are soapboxing directly to this imaginary person. However, that isn't ME and shares little in common with me.

I just wanted you to know that. If you want to continue arguing over my head to this imaginary person, fine, but just so you know: I won't always feel it necessary to reply, if your posts are not, in fact, addressed to ME and what I actually believe.

Abbadon said...

It seems like you have invented a "paper liberal" to argue with and are soapboxing directly to this imaginary person. However, that isn't ME and shares little in common with me.

Oh, my bad. I thought it was you who said this:

If I wasn't open minded, I wouldn't let Republicans comment on my blog, now would I, Abbaddon?

Daisy said...

Abbadon, and why do you assume everything refers to you?

Read War is hell among other threads that contain a Republican or Repub-fellow-travelers. And have a nice day. :) For a Deadhead, you are awfully uptight.

Lighten up--it's life and life only.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Hah, shows what I get for not checking the video. (I tend not to; they often bollix up my browser. :} )

Laurel Krause said...

I'm Allison Krause's sister. Your comment that the average pay-out amount of $63K is pure fiction...at least for the families of the dead. We received $15K each for each dead protester!