Calley, Kent State
LAST WEEK WAS a good week for killers. Lt. William L. Calley, Jr. went free on parole, and U.S. District Judge Frank J. Battisti ruled there wasn't enough evidence that Ohio National Guardsmen had conspired to deprive the four Kent State University students they killed in 1970 of their constitutional rights even to send the case to a jury.
The cases present an odd contrast to the American government's unwillingness even to let people who never killed anyone, and in many cases went into exile to stay that way, back into the country. And the cases are a reminder that people with greater responsibility for more deaths than the Guardsmen or Calley, and whose orders made the Guardsmen's and Calley's actions likely--the folks running the Ohio and especially the United States governments--never came up for trial at all. Indeed, the idea of trying them remains as unconsidered as a proposition that the government owes draft-dodging exiles not just amnesty but reparations, that it owes those who fought in Vietnam greater reparations, and that the students it killed and the hundreds of thousands of people throughout Indochina it killed, maimed and made homeless are beyond the reach of reparations.
Nevertheless, a consideration of these propositions and their implications--wearisome though it may seem, irritating though it may be to politicians who prefer to join one of the Kent State jurors in talking of the need to go back to "normal life"--is the only proper response to last week's events. Otherwise the normal life people return to will sooner or later include more draft-dodging exiles, more Kent States, more My Lais, and more of the daily round of repression and violence of which these were heightened, intensified moments.