Monday, May 4th, 2020
Fifty years ago today, four students were killed by National Guard troops at Kent State University in Ohio. That’s the headline. (and on May 15th, two students were killed and 12 injured by police at Jackson State in Mississippi.)
Some folks are taking a second to stop and reflect on this today, and for some with social media accounts it’s a bigger deal that “May the fourth” sounds sufficiently like “May the force (be with you)” to make this hashtag-StarWarsDay. For them, that whole college unrest Vietnam killing thing seems, well, way back there in the fog of history.
I’m trying to relate to them, doing my own personal math and, yeah, 50 years ago from when I was in high school/college it was the precipice of the Great Depression, which we were taught about but only experienced from the terse and insufficient recountings from our parents. That global event was history-fog-bound for me as well.
But although I was a little young for college, I vividly remember riding with my mom through or around the Ohio State campus and…holy crap, are those tanks, mom? What are those troops doing? Why are they mad at the students?
The answers didn’t come out of any whitewashed official investigation. Later, in 1973, this book was published, and does a decent job of trying to put the actions, reactions, and criminal actions together into a coherent narrative. I get it off the shelf every few years and read through it again. This Monday seemed like a good day to do so.
Even though events out in our chaotic modern world threaten to drown out the Kent State massacre and those that followed, I think about how the current administration appears to have borrowed—forgive me—liberally from the Nixonian playbook. Stonewall, lie, double down, never apologize.
Allison Krause, Sandra Scheuer, Jeff Miller, William Schroeder. The book is dedicated, not surprisingly, to them.