Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Other May 4th

Yesterday was the 4th of May, popularly known among many, especially on the Internet, as Star Wars Day. I set out to write a Star Wars blog, expressing my fondness for the first three films (chronologically speaking of course, I actually refer to episodes 4, 5, and 6) particularly episode 5 and Yoda, plus the fact that Star Wars was my first introduction to Joseph Campbell and The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

But I can't even write the words May 4th, without something completely different coming to mind.  If you are my age or older and especially if you spent the 70's in Northeastern Ohio you may feel as I do.

The spring of 1970 was filled with protests against the Vietnam War especially on college campuses.  Kent State University in May of that year was no exception.  There is no denying things had gotten totally out of hand, buildings were being damaged and even destroyed. The governor of the  state ordered the National Guard into Kent.  On May the 4th, at 1224 in the afternoon, under circumstances that remain murky to say the least, 67 shots were fired at a crowd of students, killing 4 and wounding a number of others. 

Kent State is only about 15 miles from where I grew up, and naturally the media coverage was intense.  Even at 10 there was no getting away from awareness of what had been going on. As a matter of fact, the local paper, the Akron Beacon Journal, won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of events; so a thorough accounting was coming right to our house every afternoon.

The events at Kent State influenced a lot of the rest of my youth.  When we studied civil disobedience and protest it was with an added knowledge that things could go wrong.  Many people I knew who remembered that time developed a distrust of government beyond the usual cynicism of the Vietnam Era.  Others, however, adopted a new idealism, feeling that it fell to them to carry on the protests.  A lot of people who were teens in the era would become the leaders of other protest movements later. I don't think that anyone, however, who remembered those times will hear the words May 4th and not think, however briefly, of those days in 1970.

I'm going to leave the parting words to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and a great song.



  1. Meg,
    I grew up in Kent, Ohio and had just turned 5 in 1970. I don't remember the events, though I know my dad was late getting home from work. It did impact the rest of my childhood, though. We talked about those events with more knowledge.

    It's good to remember -- and hopefully learn -- from our past.

    1. Thank you Karen, I remember similar discussions at my home as well.