Forty-three years ago, four students at Kent State University in Ohio were killed when the Ohio National Guard opened fire into a group protesting the Vietnam War. Another nine students were wounded.
Forty-three years later, it remains a mystery to me how anyone, Guardsman or officer or politician, could ever have thought that American soldiers should fire live ammunition into a crowd of protesting students. It is one of the enduring questions about the shooting that, I think, will never be satisfactorily answered. Kent State University, however, offers information that seeks to present the competing viewpoints on that issue and to answer other questions about the shootings and their aftermath.
Forty-three years is a long time. The Vietnam War and Cambodian invasion that prompted the protests that led to the shootings ended long ago. The lessons to be learned from the shootings, however, remain fresh and vital today. Kent State was an example of what can happen when government goes too far and forgets its ultimate role as protector of the people and guardian of individual liberties. American citizens therefore should be mindful, and skeptical, of the accumulation of governmental power. Blind trust in governmental institutions is not wise. I’m sure the students protesting on the Kent State campus 43 years ago never dreamed that the Ohio National Guard unit would fire — but it did.
That’s one reason why it’s an incident worth remembering.