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Wednesday, May 04, 2005


Remembrance Day (Or Something)

Today, in case you weren't aware of it, is the thirty-fifth anniversary of the shootings at Kent State University in Ohio. I think the great bulk of people know very little about it outside of the lyrics from the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song, so here's a quick summary:

In the spring of 1970, with college campuses around the country housing anti-war activity, things was a mite tense in Kent, Ohio. The U.S. incursion into Cambodia caused further protests in the days leading up to May 4th. An ROTC building on campus was burned. There was a night of rioting in downtown Kent (both blocks of it), but a lot of that was do to bars closing early on a night when a basketball game the bar patrons had watched had not turned out how they wanted. The riot downtown led to students being forced back onto campus and hit with a curfew and other restrictions. The mayor of Kent called Governor James Rhodes, who sent for the National Guard. The Guard unit that was on campus on May 4th had been on duty in Cleveland for some time and was sent to Kent when they'd expected to be going home. A student rally was scheduled for May 4th and students met in an area of campus called The Commons. The guard unit came in and tried to break up the rally. They marched toward the students and chased them up Blanket Hill. Once the Guard unit reached the top of the hill, some of the protestors who had been fleeing turned and began to throw rocks, bottles, etc. I don't recall which guardsman fired the first shot, but it didn't take long until others joined in. Four students were killed and, I believe--although it's been a long time since I studied this--that seven other students were wounded. Two of the students who were killed hadn't even been at the protest, but had just been walking to class.

I went to Kent State. That's why I remember this. I had to put up with four goddamn years of people who, after having asked where I went to school and having been answered, quipped, "You're not worried about getting shot, are ya?" I had to put up with the self-righteous members of the May 4th Task Force, doofi (plural of doofus) who took the responsibility on themselves to make sure people remembered what had happened, mostly by not bathing until the stench of them made passersby think of sadness and anguish.

I should take a quick second to clarify something here: People who teach at or attend Kent State refer to the shootings simply as "May 4th". The press, when they still talked about it on the anniversaries, always called it "Kent State", but of course, that would have caused massive confusion to the students who attended the school.

"Man, Kent State was a tragedy."

"Yeah, the football team hasn't won their division in years."

In the theater department, of which I was a part, May 4th was the subject of any number of truly awful plays. I'm sure it still is. I took part in one which I like to think wasn't that awful, just very, very earnest.

What I remember most about May 4th--the event, not the date--is the memorial that was dedicated my freshman year. It's actually very nice. It sits on a hill adjacent to the place where the students were killed. It's four parallel walls, a patio and a long bench, all marble, with a placard. It was a lovely spot to go to when one needed to sit quietly and reflect. I felt a lot of need for that in college. In spring, the hill was covered in daffodils, one for each soldier killed in Vietnam.

At Kent State, the day was called Remembrance Day (or something like that, it's been a long, long time, people) and there was a candlelight vigil the night before. I don't know if they still do it every year or if it's been too long and the students don't feel the need anymore. But I usually--usually, mind you, not always--think about it when I realize, as I did today, that the fourth of May had rolled around again.

Now, the 8th of May, I've been informed by friends, is National Outdoor Intercourse Day, which is a lot less depressing to celebrate.

Anyway, in remembrance of the shootings, I think I'll move the horoscopes to tomorrow this week.

Man, what am I doing on Sunday?
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