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Kent State, 40 Years Later -- A Personal Perspective
May 4, 2010  | By David Bianculli

kent-state.jpgForty years ago today, the National Guard fired into a distant crowd of student protesters at Ohio's Kent State University, killing four students. As a TV critic and scholar, I've been quoted by the Cleveland Plain Dealer about one media-related aspect of the tragedy -- but back in 1970, at age 16, I relayed by thoughts via the media also -- delivering a controversial editorial for my high school's closed-circuit TV system...

My more recent media appearance comes courtesy of a Plain Dealer article by friend and fellow critic Mark Dawidziak. He writes a story about Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's "Ohio," the hot-off-the-record-presses reaction to the Kent State killings, with Neil Young's chillingly concise phrase, "Four dead in Ohio."

You can read that story -- and I hope you do -- by clicking HERE.

ohio-single-295.jpgForty years ago, I was a junior at Nova High School in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, at a pivotal point in my young media-loving education. By that time, I already had been a columnist and editor for my high school newspaper, quit to start my own underground newspaper, then gotten a weekly show on the school's closed-circuit TV system. (For a while, anyway.)

The show was supposed to a short, simple method of broadcasting the day's school announcements, but a group of us TV-savvy youngsters expanded it, making it a longer daily show with comedy, talk, sketches and other stuff. Playful nonsense, basically. I wrote a multi-part soap opera, set in a college town, called "Secret Dorm," spoofing a then-popular TV soap opera. That should give you an idea of the usual content.

But after Kent State, it wasn't a time for anything usual. On campus, we were planning a mock funeral to protest the killings. (Yes, technically, 1970 was still the Sixties.) And even though I was basically a joker on TV, I wanted to write and deliver a serious editorial -- a first for me, and the TV operation. Our TV journalism teacher, a wonderful woman named Joyce Hall, approved it, and fought for and got the approval and signature of the principal as well.

secret-storm.jpgSo on Wednesday, May 6, two days after Kent State, I delivered my first and only TV editorial. It's one of the few things I've saved from that period, and here are two sample paragraphs:

"At Kent State University, four college students were killed, and another dozen wounded, by gunfire from the National Guard. Regardless of where the blame is placed, the fact remains: Allison Krause, Sandy Scheuer, Jeff Miller and William Schroeder died during a college demonstration.

"It is important that people across the nation realize what is happening to our college, and even high school, campuses. It is also important that they understand that the deaths of these students should not be permitted to fade from the memories of the 'silent majority'..."

Forty years later, Kent State remains front-page news, as it should. "The only cause we can give to their deaths," I concluded then, at age 16, "is to make us all think. About what's happened, about each other, and about ourselves."

At age 56, that still sounds like good advice... which is why, today, I'm indulging myself by doing just that.




Mac said:

DavidI was a college freshman and, after some minor war protesting in the college town, this event chilled all of us. It changed our world. A few days after the shooting, a Kent State student spoke on campus. Final exams taking place at the same time seemed meaningless and that is possibly when I saw that this college thing was not worth it.
Today's Washington Times piece by Fox News' James Rosen uses the phrase "now largely forgotten" to describe May 4, 1970. I hope not. Rosen's piece, by the way, invites more questions than it answers, which, in Rosen's defense, may be a good thing. Rosen reports declassified FBI files show credible evidence that shots may have been fired before the Guardsman fired. He also mentions an FBI informant/student armed and tests prove that his weapon was indeed discharged that day. Was this the guy? Who knows. Rosen seems to be rewriting history,or at least paint a few new strokes on the picture by suggesting that someone in the crowd may have caused the Guardsman to shoot in response to being shot at, and negating the "four dead in Ohio" to people in the wrong place at the wrong time. Never mind that the escalation of events never had to get that high, since it was now mid-1970 and Nixon's 1968 campaign promise of ending Vietnam seemed hollow. And Nixon's other actions from 1969 to 1974 prove that he was not a man of his word.

Comment posted on May 4, 2010 9:35 AM

Eileen said:

Thanks, David, for pointing out this very significant anniversary. As a college professor, you must shake your head knowing that those students killed were just kids exercising their First Amendment Rights.

It was such a turbulent and divisive time in this country -- you were pro government or you weren't. I think the significance of Kent State is that it marked the beginning of the end. People who had previously been pro war were beginning to see the profound effect it was having not only in Vietnam, but here in the states.

I watched the recent PBS show on My Lai, although I admit it was tough to watch. As a product of that era, and having married a Viet Vet, it was difficult. We Americans like to view ourselves as the ultimate saviors of civilization, but there was nothing civilized about My Lai. I believe it's called Man's Inhumanity to Man. The fact that 40 years later, grown men who were there can still cry should be a wake-up call to us and the madness that is going on today. Will we, like they, look back in a few years and wonder what it was all about? So many lives lost to what end.

Thanks for remembering...

Comment posted on May 4, 2010 10:50 AM
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