Saturday, May 08, 2010

Forty Years After Ohio

By the middle of 1970, "Kent State" was no longer a mid-sized university in northeast Ohio, but an attempt at keeping the peace gone terribly wrong. Forty years ago this past Tuesday, four students were killed by Ohio National Guardsmen on the campus of Kent State University.

The soldiers were ostensibly acting on the orders of their commander-in-chief, Governor James Rhodes. Many who were caught in the crossfire may have been unaware of the demonstrations at one end of the campus, and were just trying to get to class from the other end. Others knew full well what was happening, and what could happen, and should have gotten the hell out of there.

In the years that followed, the administration and trustees of KSU did everything in their power to eradicate any sign of what happened. (When I was in college in the mid-1970s at the other end of the state, we were told that the place where the students were killed was slated to become a parking lot.) Such efforts at denial were apparently not successful. One could even argue that the students participating in the demonstrations were asking for trouble, much as those who instigated a riot in Boston two centuries earlier, may have goaded the British soldiers into firing on them.

There are many sides to the story of Kent State. But perhaps the least known of them was brought to light this week, by Canadian writer Kathy Shaidle. It was an incident that occurred forty years ago today, and it is a cautionary tale of what it meant at the time, to be identified as outside the trends of the times.

“Stop being juveniles,” a Lindsay aide, Donald Evans, admonished a construction worker.”

“What do you mean, being a juvenile?” he replied, punching Mr. Evans on the chin.
Now is a great time to revive interest in the Hard Hat Riot. The Tea Parties represent a latter day, and far more successful, manifestation of the same frustration felt by ordinary, hardworking Americans, who believe the nation they know and love is being destroyed by the Left. Back in the 1970s, the mainstream media’s monopoly on news and opinion was unquestioned and technologically unbreakable. The closest thing the people who later came to be called “Reagan conservatives” had to “alternative media” was a trickle of call-in radio shows and country & western music. Without the internet, the resentments revealed and energy unleashed during the Hard Hat Riot had nowhere to go.

Forty years later, how things have changed ...

Indeed. People who identify themselves in America today as politically conservative, may not always prevail, but at least they may find safety in numbers. Such benefits extend even those under the age of thirty who are so inclined. This would have been unimaginable back then. Perhaps the mainstream media still pretends to have the grip on influencing public opinion that they did back then, but at least now, the public square holds the promise of a level playing field.

Just as Huey Lewis once said, "It's hip to be square."

PHOTO ABOVE: Copyright 2010 by Henry Gordillo. Used without permission or shame.

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