Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of 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 affected the public opinion – at an already socially contentious time – over the role of the United States in the Vietnam War. Taken directly from Wikipedia, for those who never heard of Kent State Shooting. For more information check it out under Kent State Shootings.
Our friend Cosby asked if I would make a comment on it this year. All I can do is give my little perspective from 2500 miles away.
I was 16, been interested in the Viet Nam War since I was a fan of Bobby Kennedy, 3 years earlier. It was a nightly news event with Walter Cronkite, with video and war correspondents giving death tolls and nearly live broadcast. This was different for the country who in the past wars they saw newsreels that gave some news but it was "over there" and not necessarily right in our living rooms. Then my friend, Charlie Petty was Killed in Action. I began to protest, ditch school to participate in marches.
This was a "conflict" in southeast Asia who no one heard of and few really understood why we were there. WW2 seemed to be understandable in two theaters, Europe and the Pacific, aggressors bombing us or our Allies. They were in our neighborhood. Viet Nam was not. We were told that it was a domino affect that it starts with this little country and next thing you know they will be in New York City. There was not a clear objective except to win and even that didn't seem clear.
The My Lai massacre was being uncovered and throwing people into an outrage into the veracity, from the government, about this war. News of the massacre began to turn some of the hearts of the country away from our young men fighting there. We did not do those things as Americans! There was no romance to this war. The country was starting to not support it. Nixon talked about deescalating the battles. The government was beginning to tell us it was time to end this thing. Then just a few days before Kent State, Nixon gets on TV and announces that we are invading Cambodia. Young people were pissed and began another round of demonstrations and protest. Into the streets and campus, people protested with anger.
The protests became vandalistic and destructive. An ROTC building was torched on campus, and other destruction was happening around the Kent campus and downtown, it was a bit scary for everyone. Everyone was on edge. This was not a peaceful rally, the national guard and police fired tear gas and the protesters started throwing it back along with rocks and bricks. It got out of hand. And then the shots began. The National Guard started shooting. Four dead, nine wounded. Wait a minute, this wasn't just a protest, this was beginning to be a revolution and the government began to fight back. The news began to report this and many campuses erupted. Protest were now not just about the war but the government of the United States.
The distrust against Nixon grew. The distrust against Corporations, who were making a profit off of the war, grew. If you were over 30 you weren't trusted. If you were in charge, you were not trusted. This was now about revolution. Democracy was not working, and the youth, who couldn't vote, started to speak with violence. Great music came out of that time. There were still many peaceful demonstrations. But banks and corporations started getting bombed, such as the B of A in Isla Vista, CA. This was not flower power, it was about power.
My thoughts are... War is wrong. It begets violence. It creates an atmosphere where good people do bad things. I do believe that most of the soldiers who fought in the VNW were heroes and did what they were told to do. Many saved lives and gave their lives for the country who called them there. When the leaders of the country decide to go into battle and lay down the lives of young men and women, it is important that good men and women vote and select the right people to make those terrible decisions for us.
I think protest is a good way of letting the leaders know that we are against something, but it needs to be peaceful. Civil disobedience is more disruptive and has a deep affect as we have seen in India and in Birmingham.
Protesting is not safe but it is right. We should always be peaceful and humble and should not be surprise that if we start throwing stones, they will start shooting. Even if we don't throw stones, when we tie up commerce by blocking roadways, we are going to get clubbed on the head and hauled off to jail. Commerce doesn't stop for anyone. It is not safe to stand up to injustice. When someone who has power and wants more will use force to get it and keep it.
The sixties and seventies ended and many of those same protesters have become consumers who are now making money on injustice. We are no longer protesting the things that need to be stopped. We are raising our children to be consumers and not adding anything to the soul and conscience of this nation. We have sold off the farms that our grandfathers broke their backs trying to create and to build more boxes that look like the one right next to it. We have created fruit that look good and last on the shelf but taste like cardboard. We talk about living green so the earth will survive, but only if it doesn't inconvenience ourselves too much. We are concerned if our children are safe but haven't taught them how to survive and live. We have created worship which entertains and is environmentally comfortable.
We sold our homes for three times what we paid for it just a few years before. It wasn't about the value of a home, greed changes that to the amount we can get. We became those we were protesting against. We were morally bankrupt even when the economy was at it strongest.
Today, Kent State is a top University in Ohio and we don't protest enough!