Kent State still reverberates today. On May 4, 1970, white middle class America realized what black America already knew: our army can be used against us.
Soon, a President Trump could have our armed forces, police and courts at his disposal. He has already shown an inclination to incite groups of Americans against each other.
In 1970, Nixon did not order troops onto campuses like Kent State – he didn’t have to. In the weeks preceding the shootings, he made a series of increasingly bellicose statements against antiwar protestors, equating dissent with treason and proclaiming that students should be in penitentiaries, not dormitories. He set the tone that made it acceptable for governors to mobilize troops, who then fired on students in Ohio and, lest we forget, the next week at Jackson State College in Mississippi.
When we hear threats to deport 11 million immigrants from America, it’s time to start paying attention. Threats like this lead down a slippery slope toward division and violence.
We’ve seen over and over that power without wisdom is a dangerous mix. Richard Nixon was a smart man with little wisdom, and his presidency nearly tore the country apart. But whatever you think of Donald Trump’s intelligence, it’s hard to imagine trusting him to take care of your dog, much less your country.
In the days following Kent State, construction workers armed with hammers attacked antiwar protesters. They were cheered on by Vice President Agnew and other officials in the Nixon administration.
Fortunately, they weren’t armed with guns. Guns were rare then. Now, millions of Americans own guns and carry them routinely. Imagine the harm that another fear-mongering president could incite by turning people against each other.
Listen again to the anguish in Neil Young’s CSNY song “Ohio.”
Listen to the pain in Bruce Springsteen’s “41 Shots.” You can get killed just for living in your American skin.
Listen to Billie Holliday’s “Strange Fruit.”
This is where divisive, racist politics lead.