Four Dead in O-Hi-O, 50 Years Ago
May 4, 2020 9:08 AM   Subscribe

 
Wow, he doesn't hold back one iota at the end. What a blistering indictment of the US. Hard to disagree with his characterization of today's US as a kakistocracy, though.
posted by slkinsey at 9:27 AM on May 4 [3 favorites]


I read a book about this, years ago, by, iirc, James Michener. The shocking part, to me, was this section where he recounted testimony from several students about calling their parents to say they were OK, and basically getting told, quite gratuitously, that if they had been shot they would have deserved to be. It seems that some people in Nixon's so-called Silent Majority thought that the whole thing was a fine idea. They didn't seem to care that many students who were hit by gunfire weren't even protesting, much less rioting.
posted by thelonius at 9:35 AM on May 4 [22 favorites]


But the folks in MI protesting today, they're experiencing tyranny. The right wing can get away with anything.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 9:38 AM on May 4 [12 favorites]


The shocking part, to me, was this section where he recounted testimony from several students about calling their parents to say they were OK, and basically getting told, quite gratuitously, that if they had been shot they would have deserved to be.

Back in '68, I was watching the evening news with my dad, and they were covering the Chicago riots. My dad's words to me were "If I ever see you like this, don't bother coming home." Hell of a thing to tell a 10-year-old. Thing is, even then, I knew the protestors were right, and my dad's generation were wrong.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:45 AM on May 4 [35 favorites]


But the folks in MI protesting today, they're experiencing tyranny. The right wing can get away with anything.

What does this teach us? Kids, if you're going to protest, first of all be white. Second of all, take long guns. Cops won't start shit when enough of you have weapons for some of them to actually get hurt instead of it being a hypothetical if one of you "reaches" for what could be a "weapon".
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 10:02 AM on May 4 [10 favorites]


I think the only real change from the event was that the government (mainly POTUSes) just stopped giving a shit about protestors altogether rather than try to quash dissent. Easier to just pay some folksy lip service to the first amendment (like W did to the massive protests prior to the Iraq war then going full speed ahead with bombing) and marginalize them altogether.

> Thing is, even then, I knew the protestors were right, and my dad's generation were wrong.

What's enraging is there are plenty of (mostly white male) people now who are younger than your dad was then who have this same unexamined bootlicking attitude. Nationalistic brainwashing is a helluva drug.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:33 AM on May 4 [11 favorites]


Wow. And yes, the last 5 paragraphs are grim -- but it's hard to disagree. Except, I'd like to think that there's still room for a small group of like-minded people to make some kind of difference. Get ready to push the pendulum back in the other direction, at some point, for some period of time.
posted by allthinky at 10:49 AM on May 4 [1 favorite]


Porting over from a duplicate FPP I created:

Four Students Were Killed in Ohio. America Was Never the Same (NYTimes)
On Friday, May 1, 1970, just after noon, about 300 students at Kent State University, outside Cleveland, gathered in the grassy campus Commons to protest President Nixon’s expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia. Later that night, when the most audacious of the young protesters destroyed commercial property in downtown Kent, the town’s mayor asked Governor James Rhodes for assistance. Rhodes called in the National Guard. The next day, around 9 p.m., the campus building used by the Reserve Officer Training Corps, one of the Army’s primary recruiting tools during the Vietnam War, was torched, probably by a very small fringe of activists.

Student activists had long been at the forefront of the antiwar movement, and Kent State, with some 21,000 students, boasted a long tradition of radical protest, partly because of its proximity to Cleveland, then a stronghold of progressive labor. Town-gown tensions were palpable at Kent the day after the burning of the ROTC building. Rhodes primed polarized sentiments, calling the protesters “worse than the ‘Brown Shirt’ and the communist element,” labeling them “the worst type of people that we harbor in America.”

On Monday, May 4, activists awaited the noon rally to protest the guard’s presence on campus, as well as Nixon’s Cambodia invasion.

The sky was cloudless, the spring air warm and still. As the morning wore on, the growing crowd of students, now numbering in the thousands, became feisty, and some taunted the soldiers. Just after noon, a group of guardsmen suddenly huddled together, retreated briefly, wheeled toward the right, turned in tandem and fired at the students for 13 seconds.
How the Kent State massacre marked the start of America's polarization (The Guardian)
The killing of four white students 50 years ago brought the anti-Vietnam protests global attention. The killing of black students at the same time went unnoticed.
79 haunting photos from the Kent State University shootings you’ve likely never seen before (Cleveland.com)

Fifty Years Ago This Spring, Millions of Students Struck to End the War in Vietnam (Jacobin)
posted by Ahmad Khani at 10:59 AM on May 4 [12 favorites]


I was 9 years old when this happened, so I was vaguely aware of protests, but not specifically. My dad worked for Coca-Cola in Oakland, CA, and the UC Berkeley campus was on his route during that time, so he would come home and tell us about not being able to deliver to Sproul Hall due to rioting. It sounded kind of exciting to me.

I made my way through Michner's books several years ago and Kent State shocked me as it did thelonius. The fact that many people thought that unarmed students deserved to be killed was horrifying.
posted by elmay at 11:32 AM on May 4


It seems that some people in Nixon's so-called Silent Majority thought that the whole thing was a fine idea.

The authoritarian personality is the same in every era.

How the Kent State massacre marked the start of America's polarization.

The US was already deeply divided over the war by 1970.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:48 PM on May 4 [6 favorites]


Great piece, thanks for posting this.

I am a pessimist, generally. However, the author seems to fall into an attitude that I—perhaps unfairly—tend to associate with Baby Boomers. History didn't end, and struggles of these kinds are still ongoing, and have always been ongoing, even before the 1960s-70s.
posted by SoberHighland at 1:07 PM on May 4 [6 favorites]


I was eleven, and to my parents' credit, they were deeply horrified. However, in my catechism class that week, the teacher said that this is what's going to happen when people start throwing rocks - basically that the protesters deserved it. I raised my hand and said one girl was just walking to class (per the article, she was actually walking to her car), and the teacher seemed very taken aback, but she said I was right - that that girl was not protesting and that it was terrible that she died. I don't remember what, if anything, she said after that.

I have to wonder what that teacher thought of the Berrigan brothers, two Roman Catholic priests who were jailed for their part in anti-war protests. For people interested in that era, I'd recommend Daniel Berrigan's autobiography, To Dwell in Peace. This youtube video commemorates their taking part in an action to burn records at a draft office using homemade napalm. In Daniel Berrigan's statement about the action, he said, "Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children, the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house. We could not, so help us God, do otherwise." This statement still makes me cry.
posted by FencingGal at 1:08 PM on May 4 [10 favorites]


thank you for the excellent additional links, Ahmad Khani
posted by thelonius at 1:20 PM on May 4 [1 favorite]


Brutal. Can't help but think of the Odessa Steps sequence.
posted by stevil at 1:32 PM on May 4


I'm really looking forward to Ohio-native Derf Backderf's new graphic novel, Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio. He's been tweeting excerpts and background material which would have been part of his (now cancelled) book tour for the 50th anniversary. The book is now due out in September.
posted by JDC8 at 1:39 PM on May 4 [2 favorites]


Of course;
Hey Sandy
Ohio
posted by mbo at 1:54 PM on May 4


However, in my catechism class that week, the teacher said that this is what's going to happen when people start throwing rocks - basically that the protesters deserved it.

Why are protesters always supposed to be the responsible ones? Why the fuck do bootlickers always insist that those who have been entrusted by the state with a monopoly on legitimate violence not be the most responsible people in any interaction? From my perspective it seems like this should be the price of entry for being granted anything near that monopoly.

I don't remember what, if anything, she said after that.

I can only hope at the minimum that she cringed at her own retrospective stupidity every day of her life from then on.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 2:14 PM on May 4 [4 favorites]




I was the same age as the victims. It had an impact on me that has not receded. Our own government sending soldiers to kill kids like me.

I remember at the time Bob (Fucking) Hope saying he’d conducted his own investigation and that yes, outside agitators led the riot. So yup uhhuh, the kids had it coming.

OTOH, later, George Shultz, Nixon’s Secretary of labor, hearing some colleagues calling it “random shooting”, said he knew a fusillade when he saw one (he was a Marine Corps combat commander in WW2), and “that was a fusillade.”
posted by charris5005 at 3:19 PM on May 4 [7 favorites]


Of course let's not forget "Bloody Thursday" in Berkeley the year before
posted by mbo at 3:30 PM on May 4 [1 favorite]


For the last few years, we've had Americans being shot by other Americans nearly every day, sometimes by the dozens. It's not an overwhelmed, pumped-up military any more.

At that time it was very shocking news. We've slid a long ways downhill since. Tears.
posted by Twang at 5:43 PM on May 4 [3 favorites]


One of my older brothers was a student there; he walked onto the scene minutes after the shootings. I was 15, anti-war, and I remember the silence when he got home that evening; the university closed. In fact, Ohio was stunned by this, even the people who were being assholes were shocked. My other older brother was an Air Force pilot who flew and was wounded in SE Asia, and my parents supported both of them, for which I am proud and thankful. I doubt they were aware that I was cutting class to protest, with support from some of my teachers. We grew up with so much violence, war, assassination, riots. Every person my age that I know remembers where they were on that day, how it felt, what it meant.
posted by theora55 at 5:59 PM on May 4 [12 favorites]


"MAY 4 VOICES" RADIO PLAY
The radio play “May 4th Voices” features first-person narratives and reactions to events leading up to, during and after the tragic shooting. Author David Hassler, using the Kent State Shootings: Oral Histories project's over 1,200 pages of transcripts, assembled accounts from townspeople, students, protesters, faculty, National Guardsmen and others to provide diverse viewpoints from those most intimately affected at Kent State and the surrounding community. The play was originally staged on the Kent State campus on May 2, 2010, for the 40th Commemoration and was published by the Kent State University Press in 2012.

Twenty-two professional actors, including Tina Fey, Jeff Richmond, Ron West, Steve Byrne and more, all with a connection to Kent State either through their degrees, as faculty or other association, have come together under the direction of Joe Gunderman, national voice artist and WKSU’s senior producer, to bring these eyewitness accounts to life.
I just listened to this on KUOW FM on Seattle.

It lays out the whole story in incredible detail and complexity. It truly is an example of public radio at its finest. I was blown away.

I am old enough to remember when this happened and how sad I felt at the time. I feel so so much sadder now. What a complete and total clusterfuck.

I will say this: thelonius and Thorzad, your comments are going to be so confirmed.

posted by y2karl at 12:30 AM on May 5 [6 favorites]


Four dead in Ohio: remembered, memorialized in song. Two dead in Mississippi: lost in history.

Never lost nor forgotten by me from the day it happened.
posted by y2karl at 9:46 AM on May 5 [1 favorite]


I remember during the Democratic National Convention in '68 reading somewheres that a reporter and a cop were talking about the demonstrators, both taking radically different sides, of course, but both agreeing, "For God's sakes, don't give the Illinois National Guard live ammunition!" Kind of prescient.
posted by Chitownfats at 4:22 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]


I remember visiting my aunt and uncle in Chicago in 1968 not long after the infamous Democratic convention.

My hair then was longish as in over my collar -- about half as long as say Michael Landon's in Little House in the Prairie.

My brother and I went alley shopping one afternoon after we'd found a 9 x 12 for real hand woven Persian rug with barely any wear near my uncle's house the day before. Whereupon we scored a brass birdcage -- Chicago's alleys were full of treasure in '68.

Coming back we crossed a street about a block away from my aunt and uncle's house,

While we in the crosswalk a woman slowing for the stop sign just kept going and rolled her car into me, nearly enough to nearly knock me down. All this while staring at me with the ugliest scowl.
posted by y2karl at 7:53 AM on May 6


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