Flower children in full bloom

Christopher Hook

It’s May 6, and just two days ago, the flower children came out of the woodwork and into Kent to take part in the memorial of the shooting deaths of four Kent State students by Ohio National Guardsmen, 40 years ago on May 4, 1970. With graying hair now and crow’s feet around their eyes, they sported peace signs and bluejean vests and outrageous bell-bottoms as they gathered in large numbers on the Commons. They danced to beatnik music, participated in the anti-war protests of today’s world and lit candles at the vigil. It was a day of remembrance not just for Allison, Jeffrey, William and Sandra, but for a generation.

The May 4 celebration embodies everything I love about university life. It is the exploration of what it means to question authority, develop informed opinions and speak out when human rights and the rule of law are being disregarded. Indeed, student groups like Amnesty International, the Student Anti-War Committee, UNICEF — these are all extensions of the kinds of 1960s social movements that have changed our world for the better.

Even so, for current students, May 4 has become a cliché. It’s true we are bombarded with a ridiculous amount of information in orientation classes and student media. And every student has had this conversation at least once in their lives:

Person: “So where do you go to school?”

Kent State student: “Um, Kent State.”

Person: “Wait, isn’t that where…”

Student (sheepishly): “Yeah… it is.”

We learn so much about May 4 that it’s easy to be disconnected from what actually happened 40 years ago Tuesday. The pictures of dust rising from the Commons after the first shots were fired, of an anguished Mary Ann Vecchio crouched over the dead body of Jeffrey Miller — these are just pictures. May 4 is not easy to forget on campus. But it is easy to ignore. Indeed, during the week’s festivities, I found myself wondering: Why do we place so much importance on such a small moment in history?

I immediately answered my own question. While social studies textbooks often just hit the highlights of presidencies, wars and social movements, it is the small moments, like Rosa Parks refusing to abdicate her seat on a bus, that give momentum to larger movements, like the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

Similarly, with the anti-war protestors. Though it took the deaths of four young adults, the shootings and protests at Kent State helped to galvanize public opinion against the Vietnam War, and ultimately bring the troops home. Little moments in time, each one a little tree root, all grow together to form one giant tree of change.

Every May 4, without fail, I am reminded by this. During the year, inundated with May 4 this-and-that, I just want to scream to the sky, “Alan Canfora, could you just drop it?!” But then, as I see the flower children in full bloom every 4th, I imagine the fear that must have run down the veins of 20-year-old protestors as they, armed with nothing more than joints and peace necklaces, were being shot at by their national government. I see up-close the emotions May 4 stirs up in the hearts of my parent’s generation. The passion of the 1960s. And the reminder to us all that wars still rage, injustices still happen and people still need to stand up. ?

Christopher Hook is a junior international relations and

French major and a columnist

for the Daily Kent Stater.

Contact him at [email protected].