Today marks the 39th anniversary of the Kent State massacre, when National Guard troops fired on a large crowd of students who were demonstrating against Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia. John Crooms makes the following reflection on the events of that day:
The year 1968 had been a rough one, as has been widely written about, but for sheer, keening rage, May 1970 was unlike anything since the Civil War. Within two weeks of Nixon’s invasion, and 10 days after Kent State, nearly 500 American colleges were brought to a halt by student strikes, and serious violence rocked hundreds of American campuses. For a couple of weeks, students throwing bricks at cops, busting windows, fire-bombing ROTC buildings, and rolling police cars — along with heavily armed authorities launching tear gas and breaking heads open — were primary preoccupations at this country’s centers of higher learning. A dizzying feeling that we were in the middle of a national emergency, that things were teetering on the edge, was in the very air we breathed. And then something very lucky happened for the college administrators and government authorities: the school year ended. Kids went home to parents and summer jobs, and the tide of rage receded. OK, that’s it, class. Have a nice spring day.
Granted that we do not have a draft to motivate young people to protest on such a violent and massive scale, can anyone imagine such a widespread irruption from young people today? If not why not? Our very own Jodi Dean suggests that we do not express outrage because we have others in the media (and presumably blogs) do it for us. But is this sufficient to explain the apathy of the young?
One of things that was of interest about the Obama campaign last year was that it inspired and motivated alot of young people. In fact it was this feature of his campaign, that it attracted disaffected youth and felt like a "movement," that initially caught my attention. One can certainly be cynical about whether this excitement was misplaced or manufactured, but having personally attended two rallies I can tell you it was palpable. Kids were caught up in it, they hungered for the idealism they thought Obama represented, and they worked their asses off to get him elected.
So whatever motivated the young (and not so young) volunteers in 2008 has seemingly disappeared in 2009? Or, like in the spring of 1970, did the school year simply end and all the kids went home? As the economic crisis in the United States worsens, and the governent response focuses on the plutocrats who got us into this mess, we desperately need the energy of those kids to get reawakened. What type of social movements can and/or will emerge remains unclear. But for today, let us remember those young people who gave their lives on this day 39 years ago - they were killed because they stood up and said no more.