(click for north window view – coffee and masks)
Tuesday, May 5th, 2020
Those two words are all that was written as my entry on the first Tuesday in May. The empty space offered an opportunity to look back on May 5th, five months later before this entry is to be sent out. Twenty days later George Floyd was killed and for a time Covid vanished as the dominant news story.
“Covid has killed more Americans than the Vietnam War.”
Those words concluded the most recent Covid Entry on May 4. In mid-October 2020, when this entry is sent, the number of Americans who will have died of Covid-19 will be close to four times the number of Americans who died in the Vietnam War.
Fifty years ago this spring students on campuses across the country were protesting the war. President Nixon’s promise to end what was our longest war (at that time) suddenly included an incursion into Cambodia.
The official history of Kent State University states: “Threats had been made to downtown businesses and city officials as well as rumors that radical revolutionaries were in Kent to destroy the city and the university.” This sounds almost exactly like what I was hearing on the news in early fall of 2020.
The Kent State ROTC building was burned down. There were large demonstrations the following day. Shortly after they started, more than sixty rounds of live ammunition was fired into the gathering of unarmed students. The single volley of bullets became known as the May 4th Massacre. Four students were killed and many others were injured.
Fifty years ago news of the shootings began to spread, in much slower ways than today. So it was 50 years ago on May 5th that a distinct chill settled over the country. The killing of college students was on the mind of many Americans; the story filled the media, which, at the time, occupied a much smaller swath of our lives.
As happens, the story faded. However the protests did not end. The war did not end. Division in America was strong. There were reports in the press in May 1970 that people on the far right said things like, “I wish they had shot more of them.”
That war probably ended due to public opposition, not to mention the draft. Those in favor of the war, likely the same folks who said, “I wish they had shot more of them” did not have much of a voice. They could yell, but not as many people would hear them compared to today. The world has changed a lot since then, not as much ideologically as technologically. Information (now a kind of noise) is everywhere and what was once fringe, now takes more space in our lives.