Point/Counterpoint pt2

Steve Schirra

Fanatical students have learned nothing

You’re the governor of Ohio. Masses of angry, destructive college students are running the streets in one of your cities, smashing out windows, throwing beer bottles at police vehicles and blocking traffic. Students are rioting in the streets. Arsonists begin to set fire to an ROTC building and attack the firemen who are trying to extinguish the flames. The mayor of the city declares a state of emergency. What do you do?

You call in the National Guard.

This is exactly what the governor of Ohio did on May 2, 1970, just two days before the infamous May 4 shootings. When you take all of these factors into account, can you really blame him? What would have happened had he not called in the National Guard? That isn’t a chance anyone in his or her right mind would take.

Things heated up as the days progressed, creating further tension between the students and the National Guard. And on May 4, about 1,500 students gathered in the area where the May 4 Memorial now stands and were told to disperse by the guard. It is a proven psychological fact that the behavior of people in large groups can be more destructive and illogical than the behavior of a person who is by himself. This is known as “mob mentality.” It’s not shocking that the guardsmen would want to break up this large, out-of-control crowd by asking everyone to disperse. But this crowd wouldn’t listen.

Being fanatical about anything is dangerous. This includes religion, political views and even things like race and ethnicity. When people are so focused on one idea, or thought, their entire logic is skewed. This can be said for the fanatical liberals who were protesting the invasion of Cambodia at the time of the shootings. They were so caught-up in their agenda that they didn’t take the safety of themselves or others into account.

They were asked to leave — to go back to their dorms. But instead, they threw rocks. Students tossed tear gas canisters back at the guard, which had every right to fire at them in the first place. Students congregating around the Commons knew all too well that the situation was beginning to get out of control. Yet, they stayed and continued attacking the National Guard.

Shots were fired. Sixty-seven shots in 13 seconds, they say. Four students died, including students who weren’t even part of the protest. This is the most disturbing factor for most people — that innocent, good-natured students were shot, students who weren’t disobeying a direct order from the National Guard. The order was only given for the students’ safety because let’s face it, a few thousand students protesting at Kent State wasn’t going to end the invasion of Cambodia. It wasn’t a conspiracy by the government to quash war protesters. It was an order given to try to prevent what eventually did happen on May 4.

And what have fanatical students learned from this tragedy? Absolutely nothing. We still have students destroying property on May 4, 35 years after the incident happened. Violent protests. Tear gas. Cars being flipped and burned. Hostility between students and the police.

How much more blood must be shed before people will learn?

Steve Schirra is a sophomore biology major and the assistant forum editor for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].