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It's the 54th Anniversary of the Campus Protest Kent State Shootings

Campus life in 2024 looks a lot like 1970, and you know things have gotten crazy when the left has me cheering for Lauren Boebert.



Note: I should have published this on May 4th but I forgot. My apologies!



It was 54 years ago today that the Ohio National Guard shot and killed four student protesters and wounded nine at a then-unknown small state university in northeast Ohio. Exactly one month later, on June 4th, the folk rock hippie band Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young released Ohio, enshrining the event in pop culture with its defiant opening guitar riff and lyrics. “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming/We’re finally on our own/This summer I hear the drumming/Four dead in O-hi-o!”


The shootings put the college town on the map and ensured that anyone who graduated after 1970 for at least twenty years after answered the question, “So where did you go to school?” with “Kent State University, and no I wasn’t there during the shootings.”


Because they’d always ask.


The deaths shocked America, although no one paid attention to an unprecedented second campus shooting exactly two weeks later in Mississippi, when police opened fire on student protesters at Jackson State University, killing two students and injuring twelve. But the Jackson State kids were black, so no one noticed.





This includes Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, who, exactly one month later, did not release a song that began, “Two dead in Mis-sis-sippi!”


I’ve often wondered what it must have been like to be a teenager or young adult back then; I was still learning to read. I’ve read the literature on the ‘60s, watched the movies, bought the old LPs (then downloaded them a decade later). I even was a bit of a ‘displaced’ hippie myself, a visceral response to the perfectly-coiffed, preppy-dressed, Young Republican vibe of the newly-inaugurated Reagan era.


I’ve imagined how bugspit insane it must have been to grow up when, if you were a young man whose father lacked the wealth and connections to get you out of your draft notice siren call, you were forced to make a tough decision, if you were unwilling to fight: Face jail as a conscientious objector, flee to Canada or go kill people in a foreign land against whom you had no personal grudge. Because you were forced by your own government for reasons no one could clearly articulate.


Campus unrest fifty-four years ago embraced also civil rights; especially in the South where the Klan still ran rogue and killed any ‘uppity n—ers’ that got in the way of conserving the dying Ol’ South. Other causes embraced free speech, the environment, or ‘ecology’ as it was called back then, and students’ rights.


I keep thinking about Kent State and Jackson State as today’s college campuses, especially at elite universities, erupt in protests primarily about, once again, an unpopular war in another far-off land, but that no one in this hemisphere is forced to fight.



Today’s college students seem far less sympathetic than the ones I read about and studied. For pete’s sake, I never thought I’d see the day when I’d be cheering on Lauren ‘Jack-Off Queen’ Boebert trying to speak amid student shoutdowns. Free Palestine? Free speech, you student bitches!



 

The protesters understand far less about that part of the world than their grandparents regarding Vietnam. Many can name neither the river nor the sea in their favorite genocide chant. I don’t remember reading that the student protesters of yore called for the elimination of entire groups of people, although Yippie Jerry Rubin spoke at Kent State a few weeks before the shootings and urged kids to ‘kill your parents’, as the first part of the ‘Yippie program’. “They are the first oppressors,” he added. It was a remarkably callous and wildly irresponsible remark nine months after the brutal Manson murders.


Thankfully, no one took his advice. I wonder if some might take it as a call to action today. Student protesters have devolved from uncritically supporting Gaza to openly cheering for Hamas, a fundamentalist Muslim terrorist group that would kill every last one of them as filthy infidels, with especial torment for Team Rainbow.


Student protesters are almost never exclusively non-violent, educated, free-speech-loving little angels. They have much in common with their spoiled, entitled antecedents and descendants. The protesters of yore deplatformed campus speakers as far back as 1825 when Thomas Jefferson had to face pissed-off students at the University of Virginia rioting for the right to goof off and to resist what they considered overly strict academia. Spoiled scions of the merchant rich, these pioneering protest brats’ first noble cause was to fight for their right to paaaaarty. A century and a half later, Kent State protesters were as ‘woke’, entitled, and fractious as in Jefferson’s day. A signed nailed to a tree in 1970 asked, ‘Why is the ROTC building still standing?’ A day later, it wasn’t—it was burned to the ground. And down in Mississippi, the students at Jackson State were throwing rocks at passing cars driven by white people, further inflamed by a rumor that Charles Evers, brother to a recently slain black civil rights activist by the Ku Klux Klan, had been murdered along with his wife (they weren’t). And then someone outside the school set fire to a dump truck.


As disgusted as I am by today’s kids—who do have a right to protest, even if I don’t always agree with them (and sometimes I do)—I’m worried about when the bodies will fall. Maybe it will be the National Guard, if they’re called in, or the police. Or maybe it will be a mass shooting by ‘outside agitators’, or ‘external sources’ as they’re called now.





 

Today’s campus protests, as in 1970, are a moral clusterfuck of good and bad values, right and wrong action. FIRE—the Foundation for Individual Rights and Education—kind of the new ACLU—helpfully spells out for campus protesters what they have the legal right to do and not do. What constitutes free speech and what doesn’t.



Violence truly begets violence, and today’s Columbia University is rather a lot like yer grandmother’s. Back in 1968 students occupied Hamilton Hall at Columbia, which also hosted a ‘Gym Crow’ protest over a segregated gymnasium. On Tuesday, police entered an occupied Hamilton Hall again and arrested dozens of the geographically-challenged.


 

Hardcore university liberalism got a boost in the 1960s. According to Steven Mintz, writing for Inside Higher Ed, post-war federally enacted student loan and grant programs, with a special emphasis on making education available to the economically disadvantaged, increased college enrollments 45% from 1945 to 1960, and doubled them by 1970. College was also a good way to defer going to Vietnam.


What distinguishes today’s campus protesters from their grandparents is how blatantly anti-Israeli and antisemitic they were from Day 1—34,000 Gazan lives ago, on October 8.

Student America’s response to Hamas’s attack was immediate. The Israeli dead literally weren’t even cold before impromptu protests began around the country, encouraged heavily by Palestinian and other Muslim students. Young people who would never have tolerated rocks and abuse lobbed at black people told to ‘Go back to Africa, n-word!’ felt perfectly comfortable, and no, not hypocritical at all, chanting the famous geographic genocidal call to action.


It’s why I’ve never taken any of them seriously. No, not even 34,000 lives later, with Israel smelling about as bad as Hamas and a seeming fuck-you-all, we’ll do what we want, you’ll hate us no matter what, so fuck it, you want genocide, THIS is genocide, bitches!


I can’t even read about the Gazan War anymore. My sympathy for Israel has mostly evaporated. There’s simply no justification for the carnage, even though I shed no tears for dead Hamassholes. The terrorist group can’t be rehabilitated.


But even so, as antisemitic and hateful as I find the protesters, as mindlessly psycho as so many on the Jewish left and right have become, as understandable as I find those Jewish protesters who morally sympathize with suffering imperfect humans, I flip the bird to those who align themselves with people who hate them and only tolerate their presence because they’re ‘good little Jews’, towing the ‘correct’ party narrative. I don’t want to see these kids die.


They’re young, dumb, and full of rum, to put it politely. We’re all dumbasses of one sort of another when we know everything. But even dumbass young people shouldn’t die when they have their entire lives otherwise to pull their heads out of their asses and move forward through life hopefully wiser, more experienced, more circumspect.


My concern is not that the police or a military response will bump them off (although that’s a possibility in the event of a Trump victory this November), but that some right-wing MAGA moron will mow them down. College campuses are full of large, tall buildings, ideal for snipers. Charles Whitman, the original mass shooter, popped off people on the street from a high tower at the University of Texas in 1966 after killing his mother and wife with knives (shades of Sandy Hook killer Adam Lanza). Lee Harvey Oswald famously assassinated a president from the top of the Texas Book Depository in Dallas. Most recently, in 2017, Stephen Paddock fired down on a music festival in Las Vegas from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Hotel, killing 60 and wounding over 400.


That’s what I think about: Tall buildings on college campuses where well-armed, militia-trained, right-wing MAGA morons can rain hot death from above.


It would make Kent State and Jackson State look like a slow day in Detroit.


Not all of today’s protests are violent, nor is all the aggressive police response justified. When kids and cops come together, civil rights are violated and laws are broken on both sides. Nothing has changed since the ‘60s, there.


But what we didn’t have then was the established history of mass shootings, with a heavy percentage enacted by right-wing loners. Back in 1966, Charles Whitman was a fluke. Today he’s why one might buy a Kevlar jacket in the campus bookstore.


I can’t speak for the descendants at Jackson State, but if you went to Kent State in the wake of 1970 you never escaped the taint of what happened. The reminders were everywhere. The May 4th Task Force, created to keep alive the memory of the four dead students and the nine wounded, permeated the campus, especially as the May 4th anniversary approached. I lived in the Prentice Hall dormitory, where protester Jeffrey Miller died in our parking lot. Later, I used to drink hairy buffalo and smoke weed and hash with my college dude neighbors. Miller had lived and partied there fifteen years earlier.



When I lived off-campus, two of my roommates were in the May 4th Task Force and one of the wounded survivors, who shall remain nameless, used to call and argue with Betsy. He’d been shot in the arm. There are two versions of how that happened: One, he says as he was ducking behind a tree his arm swung out and he got hit. Two, others say he hid behind the tree and stuck his arm out, hoping to take a hit.


I’m not sure which to believe, but he was the go-to guy for the media every year as May 4 approached. I considered him an attention-seeking media whore. Only God knows, I guess.


Today what happened at two colleges fifty-four years ago seems small potatoes considering the reality students live with now: Campus mass shootings by lone wolves who have no friends, have never had a girlfriend, and leave angry manifestos in their rooms or on the Internet. Virginia Tech must thumb its nose at Kent State’s and Jackson State’s petty-ass casualties; VT counts 33 victims in 2007. Today’s public schools do the same; entire classrooms of small children have died at Sandy Hook and Uvalde.


I think today’s anti-Israel protesters are a lot more racist than they admit, but I support their right to shoot their stupid mouths off in public about subjects they know nothing about. Free speech is for morons as well as intellectuals. It’s for your Nazis and our Nazis.


What’s a shame is so few in today’s media are holding today’s college students accountable for the hateful, misogynist, homophobic, and genocidal terrorism promulgated by Hamas. Oppressors vs oppressed? How can you tell the diff? Today’s Palestinians and Jews have literally been fighting each other for thousands of years in a war that’s been going on so long its germination is chronicled (lopsidedly) in a semi-historical document called the Bible.



From the river to the sea.


I hope everyone remains safe, regardless of moral purity. Young people are both brilliant and dumbass. No parent should have to send their child off to school, whether five or eighteen, and receive them back in a body bag. Whether it’s the government, the police, or some asshole with a grudge against the world, free speech is free speech, folks. It includes the right to asshole speech.


But it doesn’t include the right to be violent or promote it against others. Jews have the right to live and walk freely, too. Which they don’t. Anywhere.


Our fashionably kaffiyeh-clad friends conveniently forget that.






Did you like this post? Would you like to see more? I lean left of center, but not so far over my brains fall out. Subscribe to my Substack newsletter Grow Some Labia so you never miss a damn thing!

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