(This column is edited and republished annually on May 4th)
52 years ago today, the state of Ohio 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 in America often hear about political protesters being cut down in foreign countries by their government. We dare not forget what has happened in our 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 made it possible for America to murder their own children in 1970 elected a dangerous con-artist President in November 2016.
Self-interest vs. communal interests; intolerance vs. inclusivity; pluralism and tribalism and homogeneity; equality vs. injustice and discrimination; freedom vs. subordination: these are the ongoing battles that leave our society divided and inspire the kind of hostility that makes people abuse authority and defy moral standards they claim to subscribe too.
We owe it to 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.