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Nixon & Cambodia. Kent State. Jackson State. "Ohio."

The 44th anniversary of these events, and more importantly, of the stunning campus eruption of May 1970 that they were a part of, the most massive wave of student protest in US history, is upon us.

This article is the first in what turned out to be a 19 part (!) series I posted here as I wrote it in 2010.

And now I need advice. I suddenly have nibbles from a couple of small left-ish publishers asking if I want to turn it into a book! Is this historical rescue mission worth a big investment of time over the next year? Would I have to abandon my somewhat casual personalist style to make it worth reading?

To read the whole series at once (if you haven't already), you can go to Fire on the Mountain. It's chainlinked, and illustrated, there.]

MAY '70: 1. FINALLY ON OUR OWN...


Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We’re finally on our own...

Forty-four years ago, on Thursday, April 30, 1970, Richard Milhouse Nixon, the president of the United States, appeared on television for a special announcement about the Vietnam War. He told us that US troops, tens of thousands of them, had moved into Cambodia, expanding an already prolonged and costly war into another country. He claimed it was a necessary step toward ending the war, and toward insuring that the US would not be perceived in the world as "a pitiful helpless giant."

Nixon's announcement kicked off the most intense wave of campus struggle this country has ever seen, a month of bitter and exhilarating clashes which triggered huge changes that echo to this day. May, 1970 also changed forever the lives of some significant number of the hundreds of thousands, probably millions, of students and others who took part.

Today that incredible upsurge, which pretty much shut down the 1969-70 school year throughout much of the American higher education system, is remembered mainly through one of its most dramatic events--the killing of four students at Kent State University by a sustained fusillade of gunfire from Ohio National Guard troops occupying their campus.

For forty years, the veterans of those days and younger activists have struggled to keep alive the memories of Kent State and of the subsequent police murders of two more students, this time at a traditionally Black college in Mississippi, Jackson State. We have succeeded in this, helped in part by that amazing mnemonic, Neil Young’s heartbreaking song, "Ohio," which opens with the couplet at the start of this piece.

But we have, in significant ways, lost the memory of the vast eruption which Kent State and Jackson State were a part of, and whose flames the killings provided so much fuel for.

Over the course of next month, I hope to recall--in a series of posts under the heading May '70--some of that legacy, for OGs like myself who were there and for younger folk who may never have learned much at all about the events in question. I will draw on my own memories and those of friends, along with some Internet surfing, especially in the early posts. Ideally, others whose lives were shaped during that heady month will come forward to weigh in with their own thoughts and memories.

There is one final thing I’ll spell out in this first post. You can consider it a reminder for the veterans of those days. Or call it context for young folks who may find it hard to believe that, for instance, in the first week of May 1970, more than 30 ROTC buildings around the country burned or were bombed. 30. More than four a day.

The Vietnam War had created a deep, deep fissure in the American body politic, deeper than anything since the Civil War. And this time the divide was not sectional. It ran through every part of the country, divided communities, split classes, sundered families. If anything it was generational (though that itself is a big overgeneralization). As we sang along with Phil Ochs:

It’s always the old to lead us to the war
It’s always the young to fall
And it was that split--between the young and the America we had grown up in--that made us sense, in May of 1970, that we were finally on our own..
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Comment Preferences

  •  The plan is to put the sections up day by day (8+ / 0-)

    here at DKos, as I originally wrote them.

  •  yes. a good idea (6+ / 0-)

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 05:47:30 PM PDT

  •  Yes! (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lao hong han, IndieGuy, 3rock, Cadillac64, kurt

    "If you're in trouble, or hurt or need - go to the poor people. They're the only ones that'll help - the only ones." John Steinbeck

    by BluejayRN on Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 05:49:08 PM PDT

  •  Pedantic note (7+ / 0-)

    Would encourage you to write.

    I was involved in the May 1970 protests. By no known definition I am aware of were they a "rebellion."

    One might say the May 1968 French protests come close to that word. But the mostly campus, nearly entirely peaceful events in the US that month were significant, but don't qualify as the turning away from the status quo that rebellion suggests.

    •  While I agree that (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lao hong han, Cadillac64, winkk

      rebellion is too strong, I certainly don’t remember them as being ‘nearly entirely peaceful’.  Then again, I was in grad school at Madison at the time, so my picture may be a bit distorted.

    •  You are probably right. (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BMScott, seanflynn, Cadillac64, winkk, unfangus

      I didn't use the term in the original title or in the text of this initial post. I'm disinclined to change it here now, because it's already been up for half an hour, but if I do go the publication route, I'll excise it if it is there.

      Where were you in May '70, if you don't mind my asking?

    •  Maybe (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cadillac64, lao hong han

        you didn't have parents or employers or didn't dodge the draft or drop out. Some rebelled.

      March AGAINST monsatanOHagentorange 3/25/13 a time warp

      by 3rock on Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 09:05:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Exactly. While a couple of Events (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lao hong han, unfangus

      like Kent State did get the headlines and Walter Cronkite coverage they deserved they were hardly "the norm" for the month of May (or any other month).
      Most protests that month - like most months since at least 1968 - were quiet and contained to campus.  The events of early May 1970 were HUGE, but they had damn little coattails, damn little lasting effects.  If anything the events did much to bring about whatever was the predecessor to Homeland Security.  No doubt the FBI, NSA and other Fed agencies did much to quash, quell and otherwise kill the anti-Vietnam protests shortly after Kent State.  And, while they were great at that, it was too late.  America and Americans had grown weary of "the war" the dirty hippies had been protesting for years.
      Write the book, lao hong han.  Please write the book.  But, note that it wasn't all fire and brimstone after Kent.  By June it was back to normal.
      Just another summer day.  And, three short years later it was like the era never happened, everyone getting jobs and wearing clogs.  No one looked back.

      Follow Connect! Unite! Act! MeetUp events! For live podcasting of your Event contact winkk to schedule.

      by winkk on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 12:15:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  There was violence in Ohio, but entirely on the (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lao hong han

      part of the authorities.
          The precipitating incident that brought martial law to the Kent State campus was the fire at the ROTC building.
         It's a popular belief that protesters torched the ROTC building, but ROTC was headquartered in an old World War II barracks - a single story wooden structure built on piers - like a mobile home, although even more likely to be a fire hazard.
         The wooden barracks also housed an arts facility with plenty of paints and thinners.
          The faculty used to joke about how long it would take for the buildings to catch fire spontaneously.
           So we don't know whether the building was deliberately torched.
           A week or so prior to the Kent State military occupation there had been a disturbance at OSU that had been violently suppressed by the police. Students who left when OSU was closed spoke of having seen protesters shot and the claim was that they had been scattered to different hospitals to avoid the media finding out.
         But the nationwide series of demonstrations against the invasion of Cambodia and against the KSU killings was largely peaceful, although there might have been broken windows or vandalism in isolated places.

      As to the diarist's question: Yes, make it a book.

  •  If the goal is to have your story (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lao hong han, Cadillac64, winkk

    read, you just have to think about whether a book is the best way. More and more people don't even read books anymore - they read short stories and essays on the web and ebooks. There are too many books printed, and most get thrown away. I think that electronic media is a far better way to get your stuff read.

    •  I'm torn. Not so much the vanity of having (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      3rock, Cadillac64, kurt, unfangus

      a book with my name on it (I've done a little ghostwriting), as that a contract and a deadline would act as a spur to get me back at it seriously, and make i a project with a finite ending.

      On the other hand, the thing could be turned into a pretty interesting website, using my piece as a spine with lots of links and ability for folks to queue up their own stories...

  •  I read your series back when you (8+ / 0-)

    first published it, remember it as excellent, and will do so again now.

    Quite a bit of personal interest - I was in Cambodia in May 1970 as a 20 year old infantryman, was involved in some of the fiercest fighting, an was ultimately wounded there.

    In the 80s, I was a member of a delegation of Vietnam veterans who went to Vietnam and Cambodia, trying to move the reconciliation process along. In the 90s, I spent several years managing a clinic proving artificial limbs and wheelchairs for land mine survivors.

    I don't have a clue as to the marketability of a book on this topic.

    I am a warrior for peace. And not a gentle man... Steve Mason, 1940-2005

    by Wayward Wind on Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 07:04:00 PM PDT

    •  Thanks for the kind words, WW! (5+ / 0-)

      One piece that's still to be done (really a two-parter) is on what was up with veterans and active duty folk at the time. I'll check back and see if you left me your story the first time, before I ask you to dredge what I'm sure are some rough memories again.

      There's a guy in the LI chapter of VFP whose unit was pulled right out of some serious training in the mountains of the Philippines and thrown into the "incursion." He remembers how his unit's first response to the Kent State killings was: good, now the students knew what the troops were going through all the time. That changed as soon as they heard the shooting had been done by the National Guard. Everybody hated the Guard so much that they decided the students were whose side to be on...

  •  Yes. n/t (5+ / 0-)

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 08:19:50 PM PDT

  •  Yes (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lao hong han, 3rock, Cadillac64, kurt, unfangus

    I've got you on my follow list just so I can go back to your diaries. I seem particularly prone to mixing up facts and words in my memory. I've learned to use it as a comedic gift---ie the swallows of cappuccino, fall foilage, loser id etc...but when it comes to history it's annoying. I was in New Haven 69 to 72 and confuse the bombing of cambodia, the student strike, and the Bobby Seale trial, the National guard occupying the city. That part of your diaries helps me sort out the timeline and apply my memories to the proper events. Once I confuse something it seems I have to go back and review many times.

    music- the universal language

    by daveygodigaditch on Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 08:45:41 PM PDT

  •  Yes (5+ / 0-)

      and a bow. You are the first person I followed here on DKOS.
       Someday historians will write the real history of how many of our generation were lost and then came AIDS. The point is there is this gap between what I had in elder beatnik hippies teaching me and the younger generations of today in that loss of elder beatnik gurus.
       Luckily the internet is filling in the gap but younger gens need to know that one April in 1970, 10% of the entire population stopped what they were doing for the 1st Earth Day. The reminder of what history is, in their today's complete mindwash by by a very skilled manipumedia.
       Point to relay to these younger gens that a gathering of like minds has happened and with their intelligent knowledge, 10% can stop on a day and hopefully raise hell!
       10% of the entire population. The 1% would shit their pants.

    March AGAINST monsatanOHagentorange 3/25/13 a time warp

    by 3rock on Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 09:21:18 PM PDT

  •  Yes! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lao hong han, unfangus

    Write both a book and set up a website: though there is an overlap, different populations use them, and they are encoding access to history differently.

    The labor of a human being is not a commodity or article of commerce. Clayton Act, Section 6.

    by Ignacio Magaloni on Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 11:21:01 PM PDT

  •  I haven't forgotten (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lao hong han, WakeUpNeo, unfangus

    A friend of mine and me used to march in Washington DC to end the war. Ironically, we both ended up in the military. But then, there was that immoral draft going on back then.

    One morning, we stopped at my friends home. He ran inside to get something and came out saying, "their killing us". We turned on the radio to hear the first reports of the Kent State massacre.

    A few years ago, a recording surfaced which I believe could prove who gave the order to shoot. I tried unsuccessfully to get Congress to investigate. The young folks answering the phone didn't even know what I was talking about. The families of those shot have still never received justice.

    Pen that book.

  •  short answer --> yes, write a book. (0+ / 0-)

    Consider May 1970 Student Strikes instead of 'rebellion'.

    Consider, also getting the woman from Wyoming (?) or maybe Montana, to add to your book. She wrote heavily about Kent State (on dailykos) in 2010 at the 40 year mark.
    Maybe not 2010, maybe earlier, and damn I cannot recall her name. Do it now, please while you still can pull the stuff out of your brain.
    I was 20 that year, now 64, but my 20 year-old-soul still hurts from that time.

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