2005 Retrospective

Kent State 35 Years Later, The importance of remembering May 4, 1970
Michael Corcoran
April 1, 2005

35 years ago, we lived in a world where many of our leaders, and citizens were intolerant of dissention. Where awareness, and criticism of the United States Government by students was not applauded for its intellectual context, but rather shunned and silenced.

Students like Jeffery Miller, Allison Krause were selflessly championing for peace. 18-year-old kids—practically babies—were being drafted and sent to kill or be killed in the name of something they didn’t believe in. The Vietnam War was am instrument of death—and the power of the Anti-War movement that accompanied it serves as a reminder to us all that with a little involvement, masses of reasonable people can stop the powerful from destroying lives, and can alter our nations history for the better.

The courage and intellect that went into understanding the nuances of the Vietnam conflict were not lost on many of these students. They knew, probably more than most, about the nature of Vietnamese nationalism, the assassination of Diem, the civilians that were being killed by American missiles and so on. Their opposition didn’t bother with nuances, but rather blind patriotism. Those who had no tolerance for the Kent State protesters, viewed dissention as un-American; and no amount of compassion, constitutional protection, common decency, or logical thought would break open the walls of their closed minds.

You were with us—or you were a communist. And if the cut and dry aspect this statement seems exaggerated then let us look at a letter that the parents of Bill Schroeder received following the murder of their son.

Mr and Mrs Schroeder,
There's nothing better that a dead destructive, riot making communist, 
and that's what your son was, 
if not he would have stayed away like a good  American would do.
Now you know what a goody-goody son you had.
They should all be shot, then we'd have a better U.S.A. to live in.
Be thankful he is gone, Just another communist.

This is just one of many similar letters sent to the grieving parents of Bill Schroeder. It exemplifies the mindset of many, who are so blinded by their own “patriotism,” and so quick to defend the actions of its Government, that they cannot even listen or acknowledge dissention.

35 years later, our country still faces the same challenges. We are involved in a war that is in many ways comparable to the Vietnam conflict. In 1970 we had a President who thought of the students as “bums.” Today we have a President that has said publicly that you are “either with us, or against us.”

Today, anti-war protesters are routinely labeled as terrorist sympathizers, where as anti-war protesters then were labeled as communists. The same tired attacks of being militant, dangerous, or deviant are still, sadly, more often attributed to protesters than the terms courageous, selfless or passionate.

We now see the Presidents Administration use political trickery to control information. We have seen them pay off journalists, and use false information to garner support for war. They have used fear tactics, sometimes in the form of terror alert levels, other times in the form of repetitious comments made to remind us that we must be afraid—we must sacrifice our liberty—that we must let the Pentagon decide whats best for us, and the rest of the world.

In 1970, we had the Portage Country Grand Jury Commission, which was as biased as it was disingenuous. That commission served to contrast the Presidential report on Campus unrest, and the FBI summary report, by instilling the likes of Seabury Ford (a former Ohio National Guardsmen) to run a commission that was designed to place blame on the students.

In other words, Bush and company are up to similar tricks, and residing over a nation divided and at war-- just as Nixon was.

Dissent is still unwelcome. Those who have spoken up about American Foreign Policy, Michael Moore, Ward Churchill, The Dixie Chicks, have all been subject to scorn and ridicule. Our Presidential Canidates on both parties were almost to a man, guilty of enabling, and voting for this war.

Kent State is important now-- because we live in a time where involvement, activisim, and awareness are needed desperatley. Once again, our nation is divided. We need an honest discourse about the meaning of Kent. Kent State represents the climax of a divided nation engaging in deadly warfare. It is a climax we are bound to face again sometime soon.

The History books may ignore this story.

We shouldnt.

Too often revisionist history conceals stories like Kent State. We hide from our past-- rather than learn from it.

The students of that era, the ones who were shot and killed, and the ones who survived to talk about it, can teach us the sprit of activism. They can inspire. They paid the ultimate sacrifice. If we continue to discuss Kent State in honest terms, then the memories of Jeffrey Miller, Allison Krause, Sandy Schuer, and Bob Schroeder, may do more good for the spirit of resistance, and the fight for social justice, then any protest ever could.

Michael Corcoran is a junior Print Journalism Major at Emerson College. He is the Assistant Opinion Editor of the Berkeley Beacon, and the Public Relations Director for the Emerson Chapter of the Society of Professional journalists. His academic interests include politics, the history of activism, and media analysis. He was born in Boston, and currently resides in Cambridge.

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