Another anniversary was passed. This one was less remembered and noted than many anniversaries.
Today’s song is ‘Ohio’, by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSN&Y). The Kent State shootings inspired the song when Ohio National Guardsman shot at protesters, killing four, in nineteen seventy. Nine others were wounded. Some of those shot were watching the protest or walking the area, and not taking part in the protests.
I vividly remember hearing the song for the first time. It was a warm morning, but humid after thunderstorms the previous night, and our patch of suburbia was richly green. I was in my friend’s back yard in Penn Hills, PA. Curt lived up the street from me. He, John, Ricky and Bruce, all neighbors and classmates (except Bruce), were the core of my friendships. Curt’s back yard was slick with mud from the heavy rains. Mosquitoes were swarming, along with horse flies.
The Kent State protests were mostly about President Nixon’s Cambodia Campaign, just announced. It seems appropriate for our era, as we’re protesting an American Executive branch’s words, actions, behavior and stated intentions, to listen to this song and think about the words. Appallingly, I saw an FB post encouraging ‘vets’ to run over protesters. It sickened my heart to read such sentiments. Is that why vets went to war, to return and run over others exercising their rights and freedoms?
Some seem to have twisted ideas about how it all works.
Speaking as a vet and knowing many vets, I don’t believe most of them think protesters should be run over. Maybe I’m in a bubble, and I’m wrong. We used to say, I don’t agree with what you say, but I’ll fight to the death for your right to say it. So, on the one hand, yes, the person can encourage vets to run over protesters, as it’s their right, but I find their sentiment sublimely hateful, ignorant, and depressing.
This song captured how appalled some of us were then. I remember being surprised that my friends were unaware of the Kent State shootings or what it was all about. Their parents were aware but guarded. Looking back, I grasp how conservative that housing plan where I lived was at the time.
Listen to the song, though, and the chorus, “Four dead in Ohio,” stays with you.