42 years ago today, May 4, 1970, 13 students at Kent State University in Ohio were shot by National Guard Troops – 4 fatally. I remember that day well, as I was roughly 10 miles away at the University of Akron.
And a tumultuous time that was. War protests were almost de rigueur on college campuses. Some of the ‘elitists’ even suggested we should all should burn our draft cards, and head for Canada. Of course, those types weren’t going (and in fact didn’t go) anywhere, most had student deferments, were female, or were well-connected. Yeah, you Jane.
It was one of the uglier moments of our entire history. Gov James Rhodes of Ohio, ignoring the spirit if not the legal intent of the Posse Comitatus Act, sent the 107th Armored Cavalry and 145th Infantry to the scene. What exactly happened on that Monday has been hotly debated ever since. What is known for sure is that four people wound up dead, and the closest one to the Guardsmen was roughly 265′ away, while the furthest was nearly 400′ removed. 61 shots were fired, and 49 of the 77 Guardsmen never fired their weapon.
It would not be the last time troops were used on our soil against our citizens. Remember Waco? Oh, yeah. That crazy preacher guy.
We all take away vastly different opinions from the event. What I learned from the experience was that the power of the government can be overwhelming, and in this instance at least, way too powerful. I’ll admit some of my libertarian streak traces to this one event- seeing an overbearing government trample on the citizens it is supposed to be working for. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, a government that can do anything for you can also take everything away from you. Once a big, powerful government is created it will inevitably turn the keys to the castle over to someone less altruistic. And that’s the truth, Neil Young.