Today is the thirtieth anniverasry of the Kent State murders, when National Guard troops open fire on a a college campus.
The full story has never come out; survivors are still attempting to discover why they were gunned down that day. Why did the National Guard open fire? The government at first attempted to claim that they were just returning fire from snipers... but there were no snipers... the only shots fired camp from the National Guard. I guess the government had neglected to plant the appropriate evidence... anyway, there were hundreds of witnesses, including the media, to testify that there were no other shots fired, no threat to the troops. (Nor could the government explain why, if they had actually been fired on by a sniper on a rooftop, they were ordered to fire into students walking on the ground. (For those of you too young to recall, the dead and wounded included some who were anti-war protestors as well as students who were just watching and students who were merely walking past on their way to the library, etc.)
Although I am sure Nixon rejoiced when he heard of the slaughter, no evidence has surfaced to connect the White House with the order to open fire. The responsability probably lies with the governor, who had been boasting that he would not allow students to shut down any campus in his state. (He, of course, denies passing down any such order.) Consider this, however... the previous deployment of these troops had been during a labor dispute... in a tense situation where they were attempting to bring order they were not issued ammunitions but were sent in with unloaded weapons. But here, in a situation where there has been none of the kinds of violence seen in labor disputes between striking workers and strike-breakers, they were not only issued ammunition, but were sent in with their weapons loaded.
A couple of years earlier, I was teaching in a junior-senior high school. A radio station in a neighboring county had been broadcasting a series of academic competitions between teams of students representing various local high schools. They decided to launch a new series of competitions for junior high students, similar to spelling bees except team based. I agreed to be the coach/advisor for a group of eighth-graders in my school. When it was our turn to compete we took a trip to the radio station. I was chatting with the station manager while in the background we could hear the news announcer reading the wire service stories. On of the news items was about how the Mexican government had just machine-gunned a crowd of student protestors, killing dozens. The station manager turned to me and told me that the Mexican government had the right idea about how to handle student protestors. "Mow them down with machine guns a few times. They'll learn to shut up and behave themselves." I was so shocked at hearing this that I couldn't respond. What can you say to such a statement made by a seemingly respectable middle aged man? Not some tattoo-covered leather-clad Hell's Angel. Not a brown-shirted swastika-carrying neo-Nazi. A business man. It was as if he had started barking or making strange noises in the middle of a conversation. I just couldn't believe my ears.
On May 4, 1970, I learned that he was not the only person who held such beliefs.
[But don't say that this kind of thing can only happen under someone like Nixon... just look at what happened at Waco. I guess the difference is, if Kent State were to happen today, Janet Reno would first charge that she had reason to believe that the protester might be manufacturing drugs in chemistry class and there could be child abuse going on in the dormitories, thus making it okay to open fire.]