The following is a remembrance of the Kent State shootings on May 4, 1970, as well as a perspective of how it relates to today. Also attached below is an article from May 4, 1970 to provide a historical view of the killing of of the following students.
Killed (and approximate distance from the National Guard):
-Jeffrey Glenn Miller; age 20; 265 ft (81 m) shot through the mouth; killed instantly (Participated in the protest)
-Allison B. Krause; age 19; 343 ft (105 m) fatal left chest wound; died later that day (Participated in the protest)
-William Knox Schroeder; age 19; 382 ft (116 m) fatal chest wound; died almost an hour later in a hospital while undergoing surgery (Walking to class. Not part of the protest. A ROTC member)
-Sandra Lee Scheuer; age 20; 390 ft (120 m) fatal neck wound; died a few minutes later from loss of blood. (Walking to class not part of the protest)
Nine (9) other students were shot, but didn’t die
Allegedly these students posed a threat to the armed National Guard. You read and judge for yourself. My point of discussion is not about politics or an indictment against the military of the time. It is about learning from history so it doesn’t repeat itself. In today’s day and age there are a lot of angry people on the right and left. The anger appears to be increasing daily. As was in 1970, both sides see themselves as patriots defending America. What I see everyday is we are becoming more polarizing in choosing our sides and factions, taking strong opinions on one side or the other. We were a very polarized nation back then, going headlong into a national funk. Shortly after this event; apathy, cynicism and general mistrust ran rampant in America for the next 10 years. Parents, (“The Establishment”), didn’t trust these young radicals and visa versa. It is interesting that many of the radicals of the day are now, “The Establishment” or “The Man” as the kids call it today.
What can we in America learn from the death of these children on May 4, 1970? We can learn that it is important to find common ground. We should be looking for areas where we can agree and work together. Not just to give you the “Kumbaya” feeling. Not just to promote love your neighbor. But for the health and well being of this country, for it’s economy and strength to protect our common values. For those of you who extol the memories and values of the good old days of the late 60′s and early 70′s, there were many days that weren’t so good. You need to remember those days too so we can work to not repeat them. It wasn’t all, “Peace, Love & Be Groovy.”
There was no need for anyone to die on May 4, 1970. There was no real threat to either side’s way of life. Words of hatred on both sides raised the tempers, lowered self control and restraint to the point where both sides wanted confrontation. In the end neither side won. Live’s were lost, trust in the government and military, that was already at an all time low; went to a level even lower and never seen in this country before. Shortly after, the economy started to falter and gas prices rose to astronomical highs for the time. There was no pride in this country. Cynicism was in everyones hearts and minds. The events of May 4, 1970 on the Kent State Campus was no isolated act. It was a culmination of country going in two different directions for the previous 10-15 years, with both sides increasingly becoming militant against the other.
This funk did not lift until Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980, a decade later. Reagan was able to be successful because both sides were tired of feeling doom and gloom and started thinking, hey the other guys might not be so bad. We desperately wanted hope and a feeling of moving forward in a positive environment. It was an overwhelming desire from a significant majority of Americans, from all walks of life to get out of this 10 year funk. Americans from every ideology wanted to move forward, prosper and feel good about being Americans again. It is no secret that this also led to greater tolerance of people who didn’t think and look like you.
The level of today’s hate on both sides of the ideological spectrum is in my mind, not far off from May 4, 1970. History is planning to repeat itself. Not sure what the violent encounter will be, but it’s coming. Many Americans profess to be the “THE” Patriots of this country protecting the liberties of all Americans, yet they really only mean protecting what they believe in; while distrusting those who don’t think and look like them. I postulate to you, there is no (1) one primary ideology of an American patriot. It is the ideologies of all the different cultures that have been coming over on the boats since 1492. True American patriots accept and welcome different opinions, welcome other points of view, who as the Pledge of Allegiance states, welcomes “Liberty & Justice For All.”
So as you read & learn about “The Killing” of the children of Kent State, I ask you to bring that situation and the lessons of those times forward today and stop history from repeating itself. Do it for the “4 dead in Ohio”.