TEN YEARS AGO Sunday National Guardsmen murdered four students, part of a crowd in a grassy field at Kent State University to rally against the invasion of Cambodia and the war in Vietnam. Those killings touched off nationwide protest and mourning; across America high schools and colleges closed, and in cities and towns police battled those who could contain themselves no longer and in the face of violence reacted violently. Eleven days later police killed two more students and wounded a dozen at Jackson State University in Mississippi, sparking another round of protest.
But that was ten years ago, when the war in Indochina served as a stark, dramatic reminder of the way our country is run. Today, there is less discussion, less dissent--but not because the system has changed. American imperialism of the sort exemplified by the invasion of Cambodia and the shah of Iran continues around the world. At home, our nation's leaders cut social spending and try to force a recession while they continue to pay billions for missiles. Our government backs nuclear power, allows schools to deteriorate and sells elections to the highest bidder--in short it serves the twisted, vested interests of the few just as it did during the darkest days of Vietnam.
The deaths of Allison Krause, Jeffrey Glenn Miller, Sandra Lee Scheuer and William Knox Schroder are examples of how far our government will go to prevent change. Unless we begin again to think of the world as they and others who protested the war did, their deaths will be largely meaningless. One symptom--the Vietnam war--is gone, but the disease remains as virulent as it was May 4, 1970.