The Kent State Murders
On May 4th, 1970, a group of National Guardsmen turned, and from a safe distance of 60 feet, fired 67 times into a crowd
of student protesters on the Kent State university campus.
They fired with intent to kill.
And kill they did. Four students lost their lives, others were severely injured, with
anything from wounds to the extremities to paralysis that would last the rest
of their lives, in the most profoundly revealing eruption of a government out
of control that occurred in the 1970's.
Although the identities of the National Guardsmen who fired are known, as are
the identities of all in the chain of command right on up to the governor (who,
on the previous day, proclaimed that he intended to "eradicate the problem"
when speaking of the protesters), no criminal or civil action ever resulted in
any type of conviction whatsoever in this matter.
Many Americans from the generations that protested the Vietnam war will never
trust the government again. They fear their government now, and with good reason.
The government will kill you if you step out of line. It's not a guess.
It's not an exaggeration. It's not hyperbole. It's fact, it's history, and it
is terrifying for those who consider it clearly.
The Kent State massacre and the subsequent cover-ups may have been the most
profound political acts of the 1900's for the American government.
I was 15 at the time, and the only real feeling I had about the Vietnam war prior to
May 4th, 1970 was that the government should get off it's collective ass and win it,
because I didn't like the idea that our forces were dying for what I could only see
as a "holding action." I was a young patriot; I truly held the patriotic
values that are traditional for American citizens. I actually thought when I
heard "the rocket's red glare" being sung; I had studied some history, and
knew of, and respected, the struggles of America in the two world wars. I personified
these struggles in the government, and included in my patriotic appreciation the
governmental power structure, as I had been taught to do by countless social
functions, history books, and the many black and white war movies I had viewed on the
television growing up.
After May 4th, I had learned a sad truth about the government and its domestic
enforcement arms. The war in Vietnam was not the only war it was conducting. Here in
the US, the government was on one side, and the people were on the other. I never
again applied that warm and fuzzy patriotic feeling to the government. Ever. Today,
25 years later, I maintain a respect for the military, a thankfulness for those who
gave their lives that I might enjoy a measure of freedom, and a sorrow for all of
those who have been sent on wasted missions - such as the Vietnam war - by a
government I neither respect, nor hold out any hope for. In my adult years, I have
watched the forces of the government massacre people several times - at Ruby
Ridge, at Waco. I have observed those holding civil power repeatedly use
extreme violence - the Chicago conventions come immediately to mind, as does the
beating of Rodney King, something I still can't decide if it was possible to justify
- and I believe it is not reasonable to make the assumption that the government or its
arms of enforcement are what they claim to be.
The events at Kent State turned the direction of my thinking permanently. The wonder
of it, to me, is that the US government was left in place by its citizens. That the
people stood and accepted these events inspires a fear in me that the government
never could. American citizens were tried, and found wanting.
Four dead in Ohio.
Charles B. Blish
Please use your browser's back tool to return to
the previous page.