"Right here! Get Set! Point! Fire!"
Then 13 seconds of gunfire. That part is unmistakeable.
A Kent State student in the dorm window above the "killing field," recorded the whole thing on a reel-to-reel tape recorder.
67 shots fired, 29 shooters, 13 students down, 4 dead— including 2 students who were among the few walking to class rather than demonstrating against the war— 1 of whom was ROTC. Of those killed, the nearest was 265 feet away.
I was twelve on May 4, 1970. I was solemn in front of our black & white Zenith, not listening to David Brinkley, watching the footage and counseling myself, "They're going to kill all of us."
In my puberty-struck mind, I was comforted that at least all the other things I feared about growing up would never come to pass— 'cause I'd be dead.
I remember the conversations of the heads above me, "That's it— Nixon's murdering the the kids now" — while others argued, "They've been killing "the children" in Vietnam and down South for years."
Yes, Kent State shocked Middle Class America (wow, does that ever seem nostalgic) because the victims were the fair-haired sons and daughters of what looked to be a bucolic midwestern campus community. It was Ozzie and Harriet gunning down Little Ricky and Wally.
Future War Presidents were sneakier, a whole new level of chill. The Torture Memos must be denied. There is no anniversary of anything.
In Ira Glass's radio program, "Habeus Schmabeus," on American Life, he revealed the real people who've "disappeared" into Gitmo. The mysterious detainees? No more. Their stories blow away even the most jaded. Listen to the episode here, or read the transcript— I recommend hearing their voices.
President Bush's inner circle included the foundation of the Nixon administration, and all their bitterness over Watergate's shame. It remains unsoothed— their anger that Hanoi wasn't bombed hard enough, that their children are "thoughtless little pigs," that journalists need their tits caught in a wringer, that brown and black people around the world should shut up and turn over their land, their oil, their whatever.
"Students/Communists/Terrorists"— as Farmer Yassir opined on National Lampoon's Lemmings, "What's the difference once the head's chopped off?"
They've taken isolating people who "don't count" to an infinity of barbarism.
Mr. America, walk on by— your schools that do not teach
Mr. America, walk on by— the minds that won't be reached
Mr. America try to hide— the emptiness that's you inside
But once you find that the way you lied
And all the corny tricks you tried
Will not forestall the rising tide of hungry freaks, Daddy!
They won't go on four no more
Great mid-western hardware store
Philosophy that turns away
From those who aren't afraid to say— what's on their minds
The left-behinds of the Great Society
Hungry freaks, Daddy!
Mr. America, walk on by— your supermarket dream
Mr. America, walk on by— the liquor store supreme
Mr. America try to hide— the product of your savage pride
The useful minds that it denied
The day you shrugged and stepped aside
You saw their clothes, and then you cried,
Those hungry freaks, Daddy!
Photo of Alan Canfora, with his flag, just before the shooting started. He survived.