In a Kent State of Mind (History Rhymes Pt. 2)

04 May
In a Kent State of Mind (History Rhymes Pt. 2)

Today marks the 41st anniversary of the Kent State massacre, when the Ohio National Guard fired upon peacefully assembled, unarmed students on the university campus protesting the U.S. invasion of Cambodia; all told, four were killed and nine others were wounded (one of whom was left permanently paralyzed from the chest down).  If the point of history, collective or personal, is to learn from the past, we would do well here in Wisconsin and elsewhere, of course, to heed this date.

To this day no one really knows what happened or how.  Two days before, a Saturday, the ROTC building had been burned down — one of 30 across the nation that first week in May, 1970.  That weekend a state of emergency was declared by the mayor of Kent, Ohio.  Contrary to belief, the governor of Ohio had not yet declared martial law — but might as well have had.  On the morning of Monday, the 4th, students gathered at a football field and adjacent parking lot, their numbers around 200.  By noon they swelled to some 1500.  However, looming above them on a hill was a retinue of the Ohio National Guard armed in riot gear, brandishing bayonets and tear gas canisters.  Ordered by the Guard to disperse, the students refused.  What followed was that seconds-long silence that strangely seems like an eternity, an atmosphere thick with fear and consternation, where no one knows what’s about to happen but that something is.  What actually was the tipping point that escalated this tragedy, none can say, though rumors of course abound.  What’s certain is this: in the fog of the war at home, the Guard fired 67 rounds in thirteen seconds — about as long as that last sentence takes to read.  And in that synapse of power polluted, the lives of four young people were forever taken.  The tear gas was unnecessary; four lifeless bodies and nine others bleeding amidst that feral hysteria was more enough to cause those there to cry.

What does this have to do with Wisconsin?  Remember back in February during that first fateful week of protests — especially Gov. Walker’s assertion that he was being flooded by email urging him to stay strong?  One of those messages came from that oh-so envied state of Indiana by a then deputy prosecutor of Johnson County, Carlos Lam (also a Republican activist) who suggested to Walker to manufacture a confrontational situation — called a “black” or “false” flag — which would then misrepresent the unions and protesters as being violent and thus cause public opinion to wane.  (Remember the fake Koch phone call?  Considering that Walker from the get go talked about calling in the state National Guard if there would have been any disruptions, it’s not an outlandish leap to imagine him contriving a violent Punch and Judy show in order to retaliate against the protesters.)  Apparently there’s quite a trigger-happy climate amongst Indiana’s deputies in public office, as Lam’s email was preceded only days before by then deputy attorney general Jeffrey Cox who tweeted to use live ammunition on the protesters at the Capitol.  Tweedledum and Tweedledee indeed.  Both men were, aptly enough, fired.

Granted, none of this actually transpired — and thank God it didn’t.  But it’s not inconceivable that it could have.  That it was even contemplated is telling enough.  To paraphrase Mark Twain, history doesn’t so much repeat itself as it does rhyme.  Look at the photo below:

All that’s really changed are the outfits — and those mainly of the guard; for many of us still dress like the ’70s anyway.  But to bring everything back to the present, I want to close with the image below…

This is a memorial marking the fallen bodies of those shot and killed at Kent State 41 years ago today, a silent epitaph on asphalt, parking lot stall paint eerily calling to mind crime scene chalk outline.  Rest in peace.


Tags: , , , , , ,

8 responses to “In a Kent State of Mind (History Rhymes Pt. 2)

  1. Rob

    May 4, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    This is one of the poorest comparisons I have ever read, you should be ashamed.

    • T Corcoran Bauer

      May 4, 2011 at 9:36 pm

      Dear Rob,

      I don’t understand your criticism. This is a memorial, not a comparison. Telling me I should be ashamed is a out of line. I invite you — honestly — to tell me what it is you are taking issue with. But if you’re going to be pissy, then please don’t bother.



  2. Ken B

    May 4, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    Great article TC. I appreciate both the eulogy to Kent State (which I remember all too well), and the recognition that there are still those in power who tragically believe that peaceful protests should be met with violence. Sometimes it seems like the horrors of yesteryear seem frighteningly close at hand. Well done TC.


    • t corcoran bauer

      May 5, 2011 at 8:36 am

      Thanks Ken. Reading through and looking at all the photos from Kent State was harrowing and definitely made me weep, and it immediately brought me back to when I was 17 and first learned about the tragedy in school. The anniversary of the Jackson State massacre is next week, too.

  3. Rob

    May 4, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    You asked what does this have to do with Wisconsin. What happened at Kent State was terrible, but saying ” it’s not inconceivable that it could have” when referring to the protests in Wisconsin turning into a Kent State is wrong and borderline immature.

    You also found it necessary to be misleading when you mentioned those morons from Indiana. I read the article you referenced about Jeffery Cox, and no where in it does it say he tweeted that to Walker, but you tried to imply that it was. As for the other, he was calling for fake violence against Walker to discredit the unions, not to violently “crackdown” on them. You also failed to mention there has been calls for violence from the other side as well. One should never have to mislead when pointing out idiots, their actions will give them away, but you did.

    So why bring personal politics into what you call a memorial? Especially when the protests are about two completely things? There was no reason for any of that. It’s disrespectful to the memory of the people who needlessly died at Kent State

    • t corcoran bauer

      May 5, 2011 at 8:16 am

      First off, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to respond. That you did indicates a passion you feel about this issue, which I quite respect; and in my response I hope to be tactful. I personally disagree that my association with the Kent State massacre and the Madison protests is “wrong,” but I don’t see a point in disputing it. I don’t know how to interpret “borderline immature” — something either is or is not immature. I wonder if you meant premature. But these are quibbles. As to the substantive matter you take issue with it, the Jeffrey Cox tweet, I owe you thanks for pointing out that it does not specifically say that it was sent to Walker. To whom it was sent I have no idea. When one directs “use live ammunition,” it is implied that the person is commanding another to perform a task which they have both the capacity and authority to do. You are right that I inferred that his audience was Walker (or some otherwise unnamed authority). Nonetheless, I have taken into consideration your point and will edit the post to be more objective. In regards to the Lam email, your point is fair that all it states is to manufacture fake violence in order to discredit the unions and protest, not as a justification to crack down on them. I don’t think it is a leap to speculate this, but I don’t care to argue that point.

      So here’s the thing that possibly separates us. The website you associate yourself is, which you may or may not have noticed is one of the sites I personally endorse and encourage others to check out (under the “Sites I Like (And You Might, Too)”); so I think we’re both of a similar political mind. The fact that I am blogging about a variety of topics (though lately Wisconsin-specific), as opposed to writing for a periodical, print or online, takes for granted that it’s personal. I try to be circumspect and not irrationally tendentious, but as I disclaim in the blog’s personal statement, I am not a journalist and make no pretenses to be. These are not critical retorts to your comments — I do not expect you to have perused my blog; life’s short enough without taking so much into a total stranger’s pastime. No, I am bringing it to your attention to consider. The main purpose for my blog, at least with respect to the political posts, is to illustrate and illuminate, not to mislead. In yesterday’s article about the Kent State anniversary, my intention was not to sound hysterical, but rather to put everything into a historical context to consider. If we fail to heed the lessons of the past, we will be condemned to repeat their mistakes in our own ways. If you still find hyperbole in my association of Kent State and Madison — admittedly different things, though I don’t believe I conflated the two — then so be it. I will not please everyone always, possibly only rarely, or never. Regardless, I appreciate the time you’ve taken to write and correct my imperfect logic. A little more civility would have been nice, but the internet’s not the medium for decorum, well I know.

  4. drillbaby

    May 7, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    Rob, and Timothy — both of you are just liberal jackasses repeating the same hype from the 60’s. It’s no wonder that the right is the only side that gets anything accomplished in this country.

    • t corcoran bauer

      May 8, 2011 at 11:03 am

      If by accomplishing anything you mean always putting impediments to progress, sticking its head in the sand and pretending it’s still the 19th Century, talking hypocritically about anti-gig government while continually swelling the overreaching powers of the State, rescinding the civil liberties of demographics it doesn’t like (women, gays, folks of color, individual city/county councils, etc), then yes, the right sure “gits ‘er done” alright. It’s done an awesome job of protecting the natural resources of the country; it’s been impeccable at the drug war; no foreigners want to kill us or anything; and its top notch ability to regulate itself or the financial world and keeping America recession-free is unimpeachable. All the jobs shipped out overseas has been an extraordinary economic recovery — nay, a renaissance — to places like Detroit and Gary, IN, too. Free trade in general, the GOP gets an A+!

      So thanks “Drillbaby” for setting the record straight. Now let’s go make reality TV stars and thrice bankrupt capitalists the next leader of the free world!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: