Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Four Dead in Ohio

I just recently read 13 Seconds: A Look Back at the Kent State Shootings by Philip Caputo and watched the companion TLC documentary, Kent State: The Day the War Came Home. Growing up in Northeast Ohio, I have never taken lightly what happened nearly 40 years ago on the campus of Kent State University, but I realized reading this book that I have taken for granted the public sentiment about the events. I grew up in a fairly liberal household, although I didn't necessarily recognize it at the time, and we all remain pretty left to this day.

Caputo's book is fairly slight -- nearly half the book is a timeline of events and "The Report of The President's Commission on Campus Unrest" from September 1970. But the book and documentary opened my eyes regarding the social climate of the day. I just assumed that everyone was outraged by four unarmed students being shot and killed by Ohio National Guardsmen on a college campus. In reality, though, it seems there was a somewhat prevailing sentiment among the generation in front of these kids -- their parents' generation, the Greatest Generation -- that they got what they deserved. And maybe it was primarily the Baby Boomers -- the gunned down kids' generation -- who viewed the incident on May 4, 1970 with appropriate shock and anger and fear.


I have no real connection to Kent State and certainly no direct link to the shootings. I was born a few months after the tragedy. My mom and my sister both graduated from Kent, but bookend the event in the '60s and '80s. I frequented a few Kent bars in the late '80s. That's about it. This is really more the province of folks like David Purcell over at Radio Free Newport, but what happened still resonates with me. Still fascinates me. Still finds new ways to astonish me.

1 comment:

Dave P. said...

I didn't realize that sentiment either until I started talking to people about the May 4 shootings after I started at KSU. One of our emerti profs, Jerry Lewis, is an expert on the events, as he was a faculty marshal that day. He's a really interesting guy to talk to about it.

If you haven't visited the site and the memorial, it's worth checking out. It's very moving.