Today is the 50th anniversary of the Kent State shootings. I’ve written about this event the past two years, so there isn’t much more to add on that front. This year would have seen a huge commemoration at Kent State, but like the rest of the world, the university is shut down due to the pandemic. (There’s an odd echo there of the situation after the shootings in 1970, when the university closed and students finished out the year via distance learning.)
The university has produced a fifty minute long virtual vigil video. The opening song, featuring a choir of students all singing from home, is particularly moving.
There’s a Facebook group for the event as well, and they have been posting a number of links to articles about the anniversary. Rolling Stone has an article by Jerry Casale, one of the founders of the band Devo, who was a graduating senior the year of the killings. He reflects not only on what the events meant to him personally, but to the current state of affairs, and his verdict is grim. “The bad apples took over the barrel. It is corrupt to the core, a kakistocracy. There is no power to meet that power. The Democrats are completely compromised because they’ve been taken over by their own brand of plutocrats, and they are beholden to donors. The media quit doing its job. It’s bought-off and compromised. The students that are being churned out by the education system don’t have any critical-thinking skills. That’s been bred out of them.”
He’s not wrong. I’m struck at how much then-Ohio Governor Jim Rhodes reminded me of Trump in his willingness to denigrate the demonstrating students–and, of course, to call out the National Guard to shoot them. And yet, when I was growing up–until I learned about Kent State–Jim Rhodes was the grandfatherly governor who had eschewed living in the posh Governor’s Mansion on the state’s dime to stay in his own (massive) home.
It really should never have come as a surprise to me that the kindly Republican Party that my father and mother typified hid a much darker core, one that has only festered and grown and reemerged in recent years in full, pungent flower like one of those corpse flowers I saw last year. Too many Americans are either proudly horrible or willing to look the other way, and they’re well on their way to turning the US into a third-world country. Those who are not in too many places lack the power to stop them.
This will not end well. Best look away lest despair consume me. Perhaps the election can save it, but this would take an level of understanding about what is needed to begin to repair the damage that I fear is utterly lacking. We are at the stage now where I may no longer be ethically able to carry that second passport for much longer.
So I’ll take refuge in music, in my own personal safety, in the knowledge that where I am now a different ethic holds sway (though not without its issues), and that I can still make a difference in the lives of friends and the community. And I will light a candle tonight for my homeland, in memory of what was and was not, for those who were and were not, for that which will be and never be.