Kent State, Jackson State, Those Tin Soldiers and Nixon’s Coming
By David McGee

I remember May 4, 1970. I was a junior at the University of Oklahoma, a regular at meetings of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), long-haired and under siege in the post-Easy Rider south. I remember when word came of the killings at Kent State, and the ensuing chill enveloping the campus. When a national day of student protests was announced shortly after Kent State, we knew we could be the next Kent State, a feeling  I’m sure was shared by every other college student who abhored the war and was willing to express his or her feelings in public.

More than a month before the Kent State tragedy, I had a received a cassette tape from my friend Richard Moxley, who was serving in Vietnam. Instead of writing to each other, we sent cassette tapes back and forth, giving each other the latest news in our own voices. I made crude recordings of the best new songs I’d heard and sent him music; his tapes came with the sound of gunfire and explosions in the background. One tape in particular infuriated me. It arrived in late March, 1970, and began: “Hello, Dave, this is Rich. I’m in Cambodia now. Guess we’ll be here for awhile.” The rat bastards in the Nixon administration, from the top down, had assured the American people the war would not be escalated into Cambodia, even to the point of sending members of the administration before Congress to reiterate our intent to stay out of that country. On April 30, Nixon went on national television bloviating about how our “will and character” were being tested, and so we were going into Cambodia. Since we were already there, this pronouncement on our President’s part was only one more of his many lies. On May 4, in Ohio, we know what happened as a direct result of Nixon’s folly. It’s been forty years this month since that horrific day when members of our own armed forces turned guns on the people they were sworn to protect and defend. Less than two weeks later, students at Jackson State College in Jackson, Mississippi, were fired upon by police and state patrolmen, who wounded a dozen, killed two, and aied a fusillade of some 460 shots at the unarmed protesters, who were not only speaking out against the war (and the inordinate number of poor black men who were being called to serve and to die) but also against the entrenched racism they endured on a daily basis. To date, no one has been charged with any crimes in relation to the murders at Kent State and Jackson State.

A group of us were sitting around my dorm room watching the news from Mississippi as it came over the networks. A little portable black and white TV was all I could afford, but its picture was clear, and terrifying—I have a vivid memory of seeing the first image of the bullet-riddled side of Alexander Hall on the Jackson State campus and one of my SDS friends saying, “My God, they’re gonna kill us all.”

I don’t care if Richard Nixon opened up China. He was drenched in the blood of the Americans he sent to Vietnam and Cambodia; he was drenched in the blood of my high school friend Dwight Montgomery Durham, who, for reasons I never understood, decided not to go to college and study theater but instead enlisted in the Army. He died in Vietnam less than six months after graduation—I see him now when I press my hand to his name on the black granite wall in Washington, D.C. As well, Nixon had the blood of Philip Gibbs, James Earl Green, Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, William Knox Schroeder and Sandra Scheuer—the six students murdered at Jackson State and Kent State—on his hands. Although he survived a mine blasting his boat to smithereens while in Cambodia, my friend Mox left half his skull in that river and still feels the effects of his wounds. His blood, too, is all over Nixon’s rotting, stinking body. And where was Nixon? Off hiding in Camp David, fearing for his safety as the student protests mounted. A coward, a rat bastard and a crook right to the end.

We remember what happened in Ohio and Mississippi in this issue because the anniversaries of those terrible days occur this month. But those six students weren’t the only victims of violence, bigotry and hatred during those years. So as more and more right wing lunatics come out of the woodwork wielding their guns in public and heading towards our nation’s Capitol, let’s bear in mind what can happen. Shortly after the tragedy at Jackson State, a New York Times editorial struck a tone applicable to our times: “Competent and well-disciplined personnel under responsible and efficient leadership are essential to effective law-enforcement. Panicky or vindictive use of force invites immediate tragedy and leads to lasting contempt for all authority. But the dangerous trend will not be reversed until governmental leadership at the Federal, state and local levels makes it plain that ‘law and order’ does not imply a backlash of police violence. The sole effect of get-tough rhetoric is a swift reversion to the law of the jungle.”

And as our standing Matthew Sheppard Foundation banner in this publication urges, “Erase Hate!”

Except as it concerns Richard Nixon.

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
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Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024