(This commentary is edited and republished annually)
46 years ago this week, the state in which I reside, murdered 4 students at Kent State University and wounded nine others who were guilty of nothing more than practicing their inalienable right to free speech.
We hear all the time about political protesters being cut down in foreign countries by their government. We dare not forget that has happened in own country as well.
Democracy in the United States has withstood the efforts of the social and political right to limit the freedoms of America’s citizens from its earliest days. Is it an exaggeration to compare some reactionary American conservative efforts to stifle human liberty to the more overtly tyrannical leaders of other countries? No. The same fear, hate and cynicism that inspires a dictator to slaughter his own people when they object to the limitations placed on their civil liberties is same motivation at play when we hear our fellow Americans talk about femma-Nazis, the gay agenda, minority people who expect “special treatment,” or when conservatives suggest that by protecting the rights of all Americans, the government is somehow limiting the rights of “real Americans,” AKA: gun owners, pro-life Christians, Islamaphobes, homophobes or the Catholic Church.
The kind of narcissism, greed, prejudice and blind hatred for people and ideas that many who describe themselves as “conservative” is ongoing challenge for those of us who appreciate the diversity of humanity and the universal rights of all people.
We owe it Jeffrey Miller, Allison Krause, William Knox Schroeder and Sandra Scheuer to continue the fight for the very freedoms they were denied on May 4, 1970. The privileges of being an American are not exclusive to any one religion, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or political persuasion.