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My first post-Kent State May 4

Tuesday night, as I was driving home from NW Indiana I was listening to NPR and a story came on about Kent State and May 4. I rolled my eyes as I heard the same mouthpieces drone on and on about the events that unfolded nearly four decades ago. The same voices I’ve heard, telling much the same story I’ve been told.

Tonight, another reporter pointed up to MSNBC as they were doing an interview with some guy about Kent State and May 4. I rolled my eyes as that reporter, like many a person before him, proceeded to hum, “Tin soliders and Nixon’s coming … Four dead in Ohio.”

I suspect — nay know — this will unravel the same way for the next week or so. It always does.

It’s like clockwork. And though related to the events of the same day, it’s even more predictable then the inevitable look of recognition I get when someone asks what school I attended. It’s a look of, “Oh… I know Kent State” And it’s because of May 4. You want to shout, yeah, but they have a great journalism program and fashion school. And they developed liquid crystals (you know like the laptop screens) at the university. And and Aresino Hall and Drew Carey and Devo all attended. But usually, I simply nod, resigned to the one pop-culture reference that will always be associated with the university.

And for the first time since I became a student (and consequently student journalist) at Kent State, I will not be there to watch the silent candlelight march around campus and then the prayers and candlelight vigil that follow this Friday. I will not read the thoughts of peers scribbled in colorful sidewalk chalk beside crude drawings, with labels like “Flowers are better than bullets” written across the Taylor Hall parking lot as it’s emptied of cars for one day of the year. I will not be witness to the annual call to (or I suppose against) arms, when liberal students feel it’s their duty to hold some anti-war protest, as if to prove to the army of media and visitors who descend on campus that those who died did not die in vain, their spirit lives on.

Those are things that made an impression on me, the things that, like the memorial and the song, “Ohio,” I associate immediately with May 4.

But this will also be the first time I’m not exposed to conspiracy theories. I will not, for the first time in several years, be made to listen politely to the barrage of several dozen spectators who feel the media was as guilty as the FBI, and as guilty as the governor and the national guard for covering up whatever happened. And they all know what happened, even if all of their facts conflict with each other and the “official” record.

To stem the tide of people who will inevitably stumble upon this post and want to harass me for my ignorance or my apathy toward the topic, I will say this, I don’t know exactly what happened on May 4, 1970. Neither do you. Nor anyone else. There are as many versions of that history as their are daffodils blooming on Blanket Hill. We will never know. And I accept that. I’m just thankful, I don’t have to explain that to anyone else this year.

I can sit comfortably, several hundred miles away, and roll my eyes at every Vietnam and Iraq war parallel I see or hear reported. And I will probably take a few seconds on May 4 to acknowledge the lives lost in what, no matter what happened or who’s fault, was a terrible tragedy, even if it was several decades before my time. And I’ll continue to nod with a hint of resentment everytime someone recognizes my university for nothing more than a fluke of history.

2 Responses to “My first post-Kent State May 4”

  1. Bryan Murley Says:

    If it makes you feel any better, the same thing happens in Dallas/Fort Worth every year on Nov. 22. For five years while i lived there, i wondered if the metroplex would ever get over that event.

  2. Reality Bites, NEPAL Says:

    I like your cool feelings.