May 4 is still relevant

Allen Hines

Oh man, you’ve got a portfolio due for your writing class. That 15-page paper is due tomorrow. You need to turn in that job application. And then, you have to start studying for finals.

Stop.

The first week of May is not important because it is the last week of the semester. The first week of May is important because, 36 years ago, students showed that they, too, could affect political change.

May 4, 1970, “brought home” the Vietnam War. On that day, 1,500 students gathered on the Commons to protest the U.S. invasion of Cambodia. The National Guard was ordered to disperse the protesters. When the protesters resisted, Guard troops fired into the crowd, killing four people and injuring nine more. These people were expressing dissent about the war, a right protected by the First Amendment.

The people who protested the war on May 4, 1970, saw that the war was unwinnable and morally wrong. It was an impossible fight because the tunnel system the Viet Cong employed allowed them to attack almost anywhere in the country at any time, meaning the U.S. troops could never really secure an area and were always vulnerable to ambush. More than 58,000 U.S. soldiers died in the Vietnam War. And more than half of those surveyed in 1970 called for withdrawal within 12 months.

Now, look at today. The war on Iraq is a quagmire with an insurgency carrying out near-daily attacks despite massive “coalition” presence. U.S. troops are dying at a higher rate than they did at this point in the Vietnam War. According to an USA Today poll, 52 percent of the United States believes we should withdraw from Iraq within 12 months.

Four people were killed on May 4, 1970, and the American people made the connection: What happened to these four students was happening to U.S. troops every day they were in Vietnam. They were killed for a nonsensical war of imperialism.

One of the differences between now and then is that there is currently no draft. This gives people our age the option to be apathetic and say, “Well, that’s happening over there. It doesn’t affect me.” Only people who signed up for the armed forces will have to fight, so the average American doesn’t worry about going to Iraq or even what’s happening in Iraq.

But we’re losing our brothers and sisters nearly daily. To date, 2,400 U.S. troops have died in the war on Iraq. We can no longer sit back pacified by “American Idol” while our government pursues an unjust war.

On top of the soldiers that are dying in Iraq, veteran journalist Seymour Hersh reported that the United States has plans to attack Iran. This smacks of expansionist warfare, just like the invasion of Cambodia during the Vietnam War.

We must act. Protests are common on this campus, as well as at the gazebo on the corner of Franklin and Main. Show up. The May 4 commemoration runs from noon to 2 p.m. today. Join in. After the commemoration, there will be a march in protest of the Iraq war. Speak out.

Allen Hines is a sophomore pre-journalism and mass communication major and a guest columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]