Thursday, May 04, 2006

May 4, 1970 Posted by Picasa
Kent State Now

For those who don't know much about what happened at Kent State on May 4, 1970, Kainah has posted a series of diaries at daily kos, the most recent being a report on the day itself. I can't endorse everything he writes because I haven't researched it in that kind of detail, but it seems credible based on what I do know.

For those who do remember, it means many things (and the Dkos post has hundreds of comments, including those from people who do remember.) Allison Krause (one of the 4 who was killed) was from Pittsburgh, PA, where I was from, and though I was in Illinois that day--having crossed through Ohio just a couple of days before--I identified most with her. She was only slightly younger than me.

In the 90s I was back in Pittsburgh, and her father was still alive, still sorrowful, and still trying to get answers. He had been transformed politically by what happened. He was a much beloved man among peace activists there.

This reminds me of what a watershed event it was, in many unclassifiable ways. The generation gap became very close to a generation war in those weeks and months immediately before and after Kent State and the forgotten killing of black students at Jackson State a few days later.

Neil Young's song that he wrote, recorded and released that spring, became an anthem. But the next summer we didn't hear the drumming. The revolution that seemed to be starting on campuses never materialized. Older America was starting to turn against the war, young people were starting their lives, and families were starting to turn towards the middle where they could meet.

The young felt specifically targeted by the Vietnam war because, of course, they were. The draft was there to force all of us to channel our lives the way the Nixonian Democracy wanted us to, aside from offering up our bodies as weapons of the war. So we feel the brunt of the hostility and attempted stifling of dissent.

These days where students are agitating and demonstrating, this repression has returned. But absent the draft and youth-led protest, it is much more widespread in terms of age and place. Terrorism has brought fear home, so that the government can terrorize everyone into accepting wiretaps, spying of all kinds on any citizens for any reason, No Fly Lists with no accountability, indefinite imprisoning with trial, and the kind of openly practiced, systematic physical torture and official lawlessness that seemed unthinkable for the past century. Congress is so quiescent that one of its senior members suggests that it may simply fade out of existence.

The extent of the abrogation of rights, the torture and the excuses for it that seem to be accepted, the growing intolerance of dissent and difference, is arguably worse today than when bullets flew on a midwestern college campus in 1970. Unless you have that historical perspective, this might not be so clear.