Monday, May 4, 2020

Something's Happening Here

It's the 50th Anniversary of the murder of four students by the United States Government at Kent State University.  A time to reflect.   On May 4, 1970 I  was student teaching in Abion, PA., a wretched poor white trash community to the south and east of Erie.  I was married, 21, and my son was just old enough that when the 20th anniversary came around at Kent State he served on the student committee that organized the commemoration... he was 2.   There was no protest at my school, Edinboro State College;  not that day, and not the next day, not two weeks later when they killed two students at Jackson State, not on any day during that turbulent period.  Edinboro State was work-a-day college for work-a-day Pennsylvania.

May 4 would have been an otherwise unremarkable day in my life but for the news, which we got sometime before the school day ended.  It was a beautiful spring day, I was bored... I hated teaching ...and wished I was at Kent, just as inn 1969 I wished I were at  Woodstock, and later I wished I was back at Kansas University, where students were burning down the campus.  It was a year for wishing I was in other places.  Truth is I was lucky to be going to school and luckier still that I was not in uniform heading to the battlefields of Vietnam. Like most of my classmates, I didn't have the luxury of doing the cool stuff.

None the less, if I was passionate about anything in those days, I was passionate about the Vietnam War.  I had done the research, could find no threat from the vast Commie conspiracy and certainty not from Vietnamese nationalism.  It was obvious even then that the wars' real harm was the ongoing loss of life and national resources in a war that, we were soon to learn from the Pentagon Papers, we could in no way win. And now  they were murdering students.  Something was happening.    

Curiously, I'd feel a lot better if Nixon were president today.  He was evil and scheming and in the end mad as a hatter.  But he was competent.  Faced with a crisis pandemic he would have taken charge, harnessed the power of government, asked the nation to work with him and  moved forward.  Given his choice of crises, I'm betting Tricky Dick would have taken a pandemic any day over an intractable war that no one could win. 


  1. The critical factor then was of course the Draft. Forcing young men to go fight in a war that no one understood or supported. At first we felt safe due to the student and daddy deferments. When those went away, every young man of draft age was in danger. Then came the lottery. We sat in front of the TV as the numbers were pulled. Yours came up somewhere in the 300s. We breathed a huge sigh of relief. Many were not so lucky, and had the terrible choice of waiting to be called or running off to Canada knowing they could never return. Now we are being asked to stay at home and cover our faces if we do venture out. Doesn't seem like much of a sacrifice, compared with much of our history.

    1. Yeah. My number was 245, and they never went much past 120. Good thing about then draft is it involved everyone in then war. Only the extremely the rich and well-connected (George Busch) got out of it. That gave a lot of weight to the anti-war movement as the death toll mounted. It would have made a difference in Busch's wars.