Opinion: What Kent State represents

Bill Arthrell

Kent State is not just Kent State.

Kent State is a metaphor.

It represents everything.

It represents the war machine crushing the peace movement. 

It represents idealism and youth rising up against cynicism and conservatism.

It represents the First Amendment and its expungement.

It symbolizes the student revolution and the string that geographically and historically ties Berkeley to Columbia, Orangeburg to Jackson State.  

It reflects the ’60s and rock ‘n’ roll, tie-dye and psychedelia. It reflects its disdain for convention.

It is a sentinel among other sentinels: Chicago, May Day, People’s Park, the murder of two more students at Southern University in New Orleans and Kevin Moran and James Rector in Reagan’s California.  

Those domestic wars reflect greater wars abroad: Iraq, Afghanistan, Panama, Nicaragua — each of which affirm our history not of democracy, but of imperialism.  

It reflects the status quo, the establishment’s need for domination by employing the most draconian tactics to secure that domination. It is the watchword, by extension, for other such acts: the Ludlow Massacre, Sand Creek, Homestead, the Rosenbergs, Sacco and Vanzetti.

It most transparently represents Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Their intrepid spirits stared down M16s, B-52s, cluster bombs and white phosphorus, all while Lt. William Calley killed their children and Gov. Jim Rhodes killed ours.

Kent State is a symbol for a war fought on both sides of the Pacific. On one side, millions lay dead in our path, many of whom were non-combatants.  

On our side of that ocean and of that battle, only one side had guns.

The other side had their mortality. 

Kent State will always return in May.  

But in this dreaming world there will also be this: youth in their springtime, the eternity of their hope.

Bill Arthrell is a 1973 Kent State graduate and was an active protester at the university on May 4, contact him at [email protected].