Murray Polner, formerly HNN's senior book review editor, blogs at There's No There There. He is the author of No Victory Parades: The Return of the Vietnam Veteran, Branch Rickey: A Biography, and co-editor of We Who Dared Say No To War.
It’s been 48 years since Ohio National Guardsmen on May 4, 1970 aimed their M-1 rifles at unarmed Kent State College students and killed four and wounded nine others. You have to be at least 55-60 years of age to have a vivid memory of the events.
Despite several trials, a presidential commission, articles galore, a flood of books and protests, and the creation of a splendid archive, the May 4th Collection at the KSU Library, no one was ever really punished but for the imposition of a very small fine. But to me, the bloodied campus represented the way things have always been done here in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave: Shooting and killing striking workers, African Americans, radicals, religious dissenters, Native Americans, antiwar people. Gun 'em down, mythological cowboy style, and get away with it.
The truth as a handful of intrepid historians have pointed out is that had there not been a Cold War mentality there would never have been a Vietnam. And had there not have been a Vietnam War there would never have been a bloodbath at Kent State.