(click for north window view – coffee and masks)
Tuesday, May 5th, 2020
Those two words were all I wrote on the first Tuesday in May 2020.
The empty space below the two words offered an opportunity to look back on May 5th, in mid-October as I was preparing to send this entry. Those two defiant lonely words did not feel like a complete entry, even if it is near the end of this series.
“Luckily nothing” was written twenty days before George Floyd was killed. Covid vanished as a topic of conversation, Floyd’s death and the fallout became dominant.
The most recent Covid Entry, CE 49, concluded with “Covid has killed more Americans than the Vietnam War.” In mid-October 2020, as this entry is about to be sent, the number of Americans who have died of Covid-19 will be close to four times the number of Americans who died in the Vietnam War. The reaction to these deaths by disease has been quite different than those caused by war.
Fifty years ago this spring, students on campuses across the country were protesting the Vietnam War. President Nixon’s promise to end our longest war (at that time) suddenly included an incursion into Cambodia.
According to the official history of Kent State University threats were made to downtown businesses and city officials. Rumors about radical revolutionaries destroying the city and the university circulated. This sounds very similar to what I have been hearing on the news in early fall 2020 as the presidential election approaches.
The Kent State ROTC building was burned down, and the next day there were large demonstrations on campus. Shortly after the demonstrations started, more than sixty rounds of live ammunition were fired into a group of unarmed students. That single volley of bullets became known as the May 4th Massacre. Four students were killed, and many more were injured.
Fifty years ago, news of the Kent State shootings spread more slowly than news it would today. So, it was exactly 50 years ago on May 5th that a distinct chill settled over the country. The story filled the media, which, at the time, occupied a much smaller swath of our lives.
As happens, the story faded, but the protests did not. The war continued. Division in America was strong. Press reports in May 1970 shared that people on the far right were saying things like, “I wish they had shot more of them.”
Eventually that war ended, in part due to public protests, and in part due to opposition to the draft. Without a huge mass of people no one had much voice; they could yell, but not as many people would hear them compared to today.
The world has changed a lot since then, more technologically than ideologically. Information, now a kind of noise, is everywhere. What was once fringe can easily take up more space in our lives.