It was 40 years ago that four college students were gunned down by the US National Guards. No one has ever been put on trial or punished for these senseless murders, unlike members of radical groups such as the Symbionese Liberation Army, who have been retried years after they committed violence. In modern America, only those on the left are punished for a time when this country was at war with itself.
In the fictional autobiography Memoirs of a Drugged-Up, Sex-Crazed Yippie, there is a chapter that includes an assessment of then President Richard Nixon and it includes his attitude on the Kent State Killings. Here is an excerpt:
“Did you hear?” he shouted. “It’s been on the radio all day long!”
“Hear what?” we all asked almost in unison.
“He resigned. Nixon resigned. The man’s out.”
“That’s great,” Stony said. “Except now we have a president named Ford.”
It took a while for it to sink in. One of the worst presidents of my lifetime had been driven from office over a scandal I had paid little attention to at the time. That night, August 8, 1974, there was jubilation all along the street. Young people were celebrating. We couldn’t have been in a better place. I was surrounded by young people who, as I, felt under siege by Nixon. We felt vindicated. The power mad conservative president, representing all that was old and rotten, had fallen. The Watergate Scandal had finally brought him down.
This was the last time Westport looked like a Mecca for freaks and their counter-culture. My future trips there would bear this out. The year of the festival and the year Nixon
resigned seemed to be the highpoint and the beginning of the twilight of the freak era. Soon after, the era of peace and brotherhood came to an end, followed by a new generation of conservative, self-absorbed egotists. But at least for that one night, we had won.
Even though he was later touted as a “foreign policy expert,” by the mainstream press, Nixon may well have presided over more death and destruction than any other president since World War II. What I didn’t realize until years after I left high school was that Nixon’s meddling in Cambodia led to a bloody civil war. Nixon sent to Cambodia 30,000 US troops, and US planes dropped a quarter-of-a-million tons of bombs in the eastern part of the country in 140 days. The CIA, under Nixon, overthrew the nationalistic Norodom Sihanouk regime and replaced it with the corrupt and incompetent right-wing-military leader Lon Nol. By 1974 most of Cambodia’s countryside was under the control of the National United Front of Kampuchea, a coalition that was mostly Norodom Sihanouk, a few of his supporters, and Pol Pot’s Communist Party of Kampuchea. Lon Nol’s Khmer Republic government and its army were quickly losing control of the country and controlled little more than the capitol, Phnom Penh. In addition to Cambodia, there was Nixon’s disastrous handling of the Vietnam War. He slowly pulled out US troops while using military aid to try and prop up the army of South Vietnam. He called it “Vietnamization.” He fought a ruthless war on drugs. He had contempt for civil liberties.
Nixon and Kissinger could hardly hide their joy at seeing Chile’s President Allende overthrown by the murderous Pinochet. I was beginning to see just how bad a leader Nixon was. I could remember back in 1970 when four students were shot at Kent State in Ohio. The governor had called out the national guards to keep order and prevent turbulent protests. The news media suggested that Nixon didn’t seem to care.
He almost seemed content that students protesting him got shot. He seemed to brutally oppose anyone whom he thought was in his way. Nixon may have been the worst US president of the entire century. It was a great moment when he fell.
OHIO CSNY - Kent State Massacre Montage