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Kent State Shootings Nothing to Joke About – From the Bird’s Nest

“Tin Soldiers and Nixon’s comin’

We’re finally on our own.

This summer I hear the drummin’

Four dead in Ohio”

(Ohio lyrics by Neil Young)

By now you’ve probably seen the bed-sheet hanging from an LSU fraternity house before the LSU-Kent State game on Saturday.  It said “Getting massacred is nothing new to Kent State.”

It made me angry.

Later another bedsheet appeared next to it saying, “We apologize to Kent State for our inappropriate sign.”

But somehow that rings hollow to me.  So, perhaps it’s time for a little history lesson.

In 1970 I graduated high school (yea, I’m old…do the math).  America’s attitude toward the Vietnam War was rapidly changing.  The war “hawks” who supported America’s involvement in Southeast Asia were being drowned out by the “doves” who wanted the war halted.

In his “Report From VIetnam,” aired in 1968, former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite called the war “unwinnable,” and, at best, a “stalemate.”  Back then Cronkite was known as the “most trusted man in America.”

Still the war continued, even as anti-war protests broke out around the country.

Toward the beginning of spring, 1970 the war had spread to Cambodia.  More and more Americans were dying.  And the protests grew.

On April 30, President Nixon announced the U. S. Involvement in the Cambodian Incursion.

On May 1, students at Kent State University began protesting.  This was nothing new in America.  Hundreds of anti-war protests had been held, many on college campuses.  About 200 were there to protest.  Unrest grew and by Tuesday, May 4, the National Guard had been called in and the amount of protesters grew to 2,000.  The guard fired tear gas, but it had little effect because of winds in the area.  Finally, the guard opened fire.

Four students were dead.  Nine were injured.  Some were protesters.  Some were simply going from one class to another and were gunned down.  (You can click the links for more.)  President Nixon was widely criticized for what many felt were unfeeling and callous remarks after the shootings took place.  Just days earlier, he called those who protested on campus “bums.”

It was an incredible time of unrest in this country.

I’m all about freedom of speech.  But we can all agree some take that to the extreme, and that was done in this case.

The memorial at Kent State University

Two years ago the men’s basketball team played at Kent State.  On game day, I drove to campus.  I wanted to see it all for myself.  It was a gloomy day…it had been raining.  For some reason, I thought it was apropos.

I stood at the memorial for quite some time.  I looked out in every direction.  I could almost see the guardsmen.  It made me sad, even 40 years later.

But while the apology was offered, the fact is this is not the first time some really offensive comments were made.  For the opener in 2012, a sign read “Like the Batman Movie, we’re starting off this season with a bang,” referencing the Aurora, CO movie theater shootings.

And just last week, there was another one that read, “LSU vs. UAB.  It’s gonna be a gas…SYRIASLY.”

When it happens once, it’s a mistake.  When it happens twice, it’s a trend.  When it happens three times, it’s time for action.

The house needs to be shut down and the fraternity suspended from campus.

Your move, LSU.

The names of the victims are etched in stone at the Kent State Memorial.

 

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