Another 50 Year Look Back

Surely you recognize this photo by now.

Perspective_of_Ohio_National_Guard_at_Kent_State

It is the hill near Taylor Hall where National Guardsmen, many not much older than the students down below, opened fire, killing four and wounding nine.

Here’s what I wrote two years ago on Remembering Kent State killings:

On Monday, May 4, 1970, at twenty minutes past noon, 28 National Guardsmen fired 61 shots into a crowd of college students on the hill above, leaving four dead and nine wounded. It lasted just 13 seconds.

This was something that didn’t happen in white, middle-class America and the incident made the front page of the New York Times (and papers across the world, of course) and became a turning point in the Vietnam War, a moment in time when politicians would later look back and say, “That was the day I knew we had to do something different.”

. . .

We’d become a nation divided over more than our conduct in Vietnam. We were terribly divided over what was “appropriate” in protesting the war, and what was the “proper” response to those protests.  A chasm had grown within the United States: father against son; neighbor against neighbor.

It’s a chasm I feel again today. But I’ll leave that for a future post.

Well, today I have that post.

I remember the deep divide back then.

I remember the rumblings of “they should have shot them all.”

I remember the hatred; the venom was tangible.

I remember the demonization that went on. Each side having specific vile names for the other. Pig was a big one. Dirty, commie, hippie, made the rounds.  Murderer, Nazi, were emblazoned on placards.

I remember large groups gathering in Washington DC to protest the war.

And I remember automobiles driving along with headlights on — a sign of support for what Nixon and his administration was doing in Vietnam.

America was divided in two back then, both sides believing in the justness of their position, both sides believing they were RIGHT and neither side talking to the other about it.

Families torn apart. Each side scared of the other. Each group pointing a finger, thinking if only they would change.

Sound familiar? Whatever shall we do? 

The truth you believe and cling to makes you unavailable to hear anything new. Pema Chödrön
[box] LEAPFROG, my tiny handbook for handling those tricky conversations we all stumble onto, is available in digital format and paperback.

I’m participating in Amazon Affiliates, so your purchase through my website will enable me to make a wee bit more and not increase your cost at all.  The above link takes you to the LEAPFROG page on my website (not yet accessible directly) where you can learn more about the book. To skip that page and go directly to the book’s page on Amazon, click here. Thank you.[/box]

16 Responses

  1. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    I definitely remember your posting about Kent State. Even Ian Mathie commented 🙁

    Last evening I saw the PBS documentary on George W. Bush and the Iraq war. So many times momentous decisions are made by Presidents whose judgment is shaded by failure to consider all sides, incomplete information, or ego.

    Except for the decision to stop Hitler in World War II, I’ll adhere to my Mennonite beliefs about war, highlighted in my memoir.

    Another well-researched post, Janet!
    Marian Beaman recently posted…Comment on Simple Snack or Supper for this Season by merrildsmithMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Your example of Hitler is a good one, Marian. I remember using it with a Political Theory professor of mine at a social gathering; we were talking about conscientious objection as a value, how war is never the best option. So, I used Hitler. Dr. Taylor then proceeded to explain how the way in which we ended WWI put into play the pieces that led to the rise of Hitler. So, he concluded, once again, WWII wouldn’t have been needed if we’d not had WWI. And on we went.

      Ian’s comments on my 2018 post must have been one of his last ones, for he died that month. I still miss his contributions, feisty as they sometimes were. I think he prided himself on that.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Another 50 Year Look BackMy Profile

  2. Clive Pilcher
    | Reply

    Plus ça change, sadly. We don’t appear to learn from the lessons of history, do we?
    Clive Pilcher recently posted…Tuesday Tunes 7: EscapeMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      No we don’t. And more and more I’m seeing that old adage about the hunter and the lion. Something like, “The hunter will continue to be the hero until the lion gets to write the story.” Who will write this history, Clive? I can only imagine. Wish I could be around in 50 or 150 years to see what they make of this time.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Another 50 Year Look BackMy Profile

  3. Arlene Smith
    | Reply

    Differences of opinion have always existed, and always will exist. It would be nice if we learned not to kill each other over them.
    Sometimes it scares me how thin a layer there is covering hate. A rift in that layer and all kinds of ugliness pours out.
    Arlene Smith recently posted…Tech-off Part II: The need for reliable, in-depth newsMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I love to meet people with a different opinion than mine, Arlene, a different way of seeing things. It was one of the highlights of my time living in Kazakhstan. It’s when we don’t talk to each other about our differences, it’s when we aren’t curious about the other, it’s when we demonize them for holding “such a belief!” That’s the problem as I define it today. And, as you noted, it’s when we kill each other because of it. You raise an interesting concept, that “thin layer covering hate.” I’ve not thought of that before. I must give it some attention. Thank you.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Another 50 Year Look BackMy Profile

  4. susan scott
    | Reply

    Divide and Rule … it’s the name of the game. A deadly one at that. Freud called this the repetition compulsion and to paraphrase, we keep repeating the same old same old forever until somehow the pattern that we’re familiar with, is broken. He also said that we simply don’t learn from history. We hang on to our own prejudices for dear life it seems. How on earth can we claim to be civilised is a question I often ask myself ..
    susan scott recently posted…#WATWBMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      “… until somehow the pattern is broken,”. Too bad Freud got hung up on hysterical women rather than following this thread. Thanks Susan. That was new to me.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Another 50 Year Look BackMy Profile

  5. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet — Thank you for another well-researched post. I always learn something new when I visit your blog. I echo Arlene’s comment: “Differences of opinion have always existed, and always will exist. It would be nice if we learned not to kill each other over them. Sometimes it scares me how thin a layer there is covering hate. A rift in that layer and all kinds of ugliness pours out.”

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thanks Laurie, though I can’t say any research fed into this one. It sprang from a two year old blog, a few memories and a really pissy mood late last night. But thanks for the nice words.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Another 50 Year Look BackMy Profile

  6. Bette Stevens
    | Reply

    When will we ever learn…

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      And where (oh where) have all those flowers gone? Hi Bette. Thank you. Lovely song. Where are the songs for today’s era? We seem always to return to the ‘60s for the good ones.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Another 50 Year Look BackMy Profile

  7. Ally Bean
    | Reply

    Kent State. What a moment in time. It was the end of hippie idealism writ large. You know on Monday, the 50th anniversary of the killings, I bet if you’d have asked most people what day it was they would have said: Star Wars Day. We live in different times, I fear times in which we’ve learned nothing from the past, but are mesmerized by film and tv fantasies.
    Ally Bean recently posted…May 2020: As We Continue To Stay At Home I’m Getting SillyMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Aly.
      Thanks for stopping by. I didn’t know it was Star Wars Day! Whose idea was that? Certain days are burned into our national memory whether we were alive then or not: Dec 7, 9/11, and May 4. I think of the phrase “never forget” There are so many lessons to be learned, and I fear we are running out of time.

      Do you follow Heather Cox Richardson? I think you’d “enjoy” her. Here’s her latest. https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/may-6-2020?utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=email&utm_source=facebook
      Janet Givens recently posted…Another 50 Year Look BackMy Profile

      • Ally Bean
        | Reply

        All I know about Star Wars Day is that it is a play on the words changing “May the Force be with you” to “May the Fourth be with you.” I’m not into Star Wars, but there you have it. I’ll check out HCR. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Have a blog you'd like to share? I use CommentLuv Click here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.