Tuesday, May 04, 2010

For-get-ting O-hi-o

Yes, the famous Neil Young song "Forgetting Ohio," as my sister once cluelessly called it.

So, it's been forty years. May 4, 1970 is one of those dates, if you are of a certain age, that will always stay with you, much like 9/11 will always stay in the collective conscience of all Americans who were around to witness those horrid events.

I know, it's hard to compare the deaths of four young Americans with the deaths of thousands of people incinerated in a heinous terrorist attack. But if you identified yourself with those kids who were protesting the Vietnam War on the Kent State University campus, as most of us did at the time, it was nothing less than butchery. Gotta get down to it, soldiers are cutting us down.

I was a high school freshman. I wasn't protesting anything, unless it was my God-given right to wear the shirts I wanted to wear. Up against the wall, mother. But I remember being stunned by the news. Apparently free speech could get you killed. Half the U.S. college campuses closed early that spring. They just shut down and sent everybody home. That's because they would have burned down if the students had remained. I don't recall an entire generation so united, or so enraged.

There was nothing pretty about it. The response of the ROTC on the Kent State campus was ugly. The response of the students around the U.S. was ugly. I would like to think that we've learned -- all of us -- from that experience. I hope so. My daughter, who graduated from Kent this time about a year ago, tells me that none of the current students care about May 4th, 1970. It's ancient history. So maybe that's all the more reason to drag out those archival photos again, and to look at what it was like. Some of us remember. Others need to look for the first time. All of us need to look.


Mark Moring said...

As a clueless kid, that's what I thought they were singing too -- forgetting Ohio. A couple years later, I learned the truth. Hard to believe it's been 40 years.

Shannon K Felton said...


At Emerson we find it so important to keep them memory alive and the lessons learned from that day at the forefront of our minds. It may have been before our time but we know there is so much to be learned from that day. This project is our commemoration to all involved and affected by Kent State.

Thanks so much!