Proof that we have truly lost our way occurred on May 4th when I turned on the local radio station and heard some mindless pundit tell me how important Star Wars was and how the “May the 4th Be With You,” is worthy of commentary.
Another anniversary held on May 4th is much more important and was much less celebrated. May 4, 1970 was the day of the Kent State Massacre.
After a few days of rioting, including the burning of the R.O.T.C. building – an event which sparked someone to cut the fire hoses so the fire couldn’t be fought (sound familiar) – the governor called out the National Guard. Rioting and looting had occurred – spurred by President Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia.
On May 4th more protests occurred and people threw rocks and bottles at police and the National Guard. The National Guard fired tear gas into the crowd but prevailing winds made the tear gas ineffective. In fact some of the students picked up the tear gas and threw canisters back at the cops and National Guard.
A short time later the National Guard stepped forward. Twenty-nine of the soldiers, purportedly fearing for their lives, eventually opened fire. The gunfire lasted just thirteen seconds, although some witnesses contended that it lasted more than one minute. The troops fired a total of sixty-seven shots. When the firing ended, nine students lay wounded, and four other students had been killed. Two of the students who died actually had not participated in the protests.
Four dead in Ohio. Neil Young asked, “How many more.”
The Massacre lead to massive demonstrations and 100,000 people marched on Washington D.C. just five days later to protest the shooting of unarmed protesters.
Burned in my memory is the Pulitzer Prize winning iconic photograph of the young girl kneeling over a dead body crying out in agony.
If any of this sounds familiar, it is only because it is similar to recent riots.
But we don’t know too much about Kent State any more. We don’t seem to care.
Star Wars “May the 4th be with you,” is the new cause to remember.
There is simply no better indication as to what is wrong with this country.
Not only are we ignorant of the past which matters, we are gleefully ready to abandon what we need to know for the frothy entertainment of fiction and trivial pursuits we only want to know.
The Romans threw the Christians to the lions and celebrated their decadence in The Arena and the Roman Amphitheater in order to placate the masses.
One of the great cartoons ever published by Gary Trudeau contained such musing and called one of the Roman legions participating in the spectacle “Geraldo Reverabus.”
Thus we are back discussing the riots in Baltimore. Nothing is more telling than Geraldo being confronted by a young man on his way to cover the riots in Baltimore – that and the inaccurate reporting of Fox this week claiming police had shot someone when in fact nothing of the sort happened.
The first incident – forgetting Kent State while praising the fiction of Star Wars speaks to reporters forgetting priorities and the second incident – Geraldo and Fox – speaks to the inability of some reporters to accurately report the news and relate to those who are supposed to benefit from disinterested third party observations.
A report this week shows more people in the U.S. now more than ever believe race relations in this country are sour. This is a product of what is seen and reported by the media.
We help shape the world view, and as we’ve already demonstrated we’re not capable of doing our job very well.
Racism is a problem. There is no denying it. The election of the first African-American President should’ve meant the opposite. Unfortunately it has given strength to the zealots and extremists.
But racism isn’t the root cause of the problem and we in the media have been woefully inadequate in explaining the situation – mostly because we don’t understand it and also because we are collectively arrogant enough to believe if we don’t know about it then it isn’t real.
The short answer is this: Black and white people have far more in common with each other than with rich people. We continue fighting about religion, race, and minimum wage and are diverted by things like Star Wars while those who own everything make off with the money.
The distance between rich and poor is growing wider and wider. But as long as we care more about Star Wars than remembering the Kent State Massacre and its ramifications we will be reliving the same moment in history over and over again – like a rebooted science fiction franchise.