I am up late, not my usual morning letter, thinking about something that happened in Ohio forty-eight years ago that changed the way I saw the world—the change seems permanent at least when in comes to my political orientation and my belief in the American myth.
Tin Soldiers and Nixon’s coming.
We’re finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming.
Four dead in Ohio.
Nixon invades Cambodia, explaining that Cambodia wasn’t really Cambodia. This was two years after he had told America he had a secret plan to end the war when the truth was he was bargaining with the government in South Vietnam to sabotage the peace talks in Paris in order to win the election. There was no secret plan, he later admitted. That was just campaign talk, and when he invaded Cambodia a year and some months after taking office, when students took to the streets to declare all the talk about peace to be just bullshit, the guard in Kent turned and fired into a crowd of unarmed students, killing four.
It’s about time they started shooting those bastards, someone said at the agency where I was doing my stint in the Navy. Not everyone said it. Not Captain Root who insisted one doesn’t fire on a unarmed crowd—Not in America. Should have killed them all, someone else said. Not in America. Sandra Scheuer was walking from class, a hundred thirty yards away. Shot in the neck and died. She shouldn’t have been there. But she was exactly where she was supposed to be, attending class, walking from class. Someone shot her through the neck.
Rumors circulated about how the four dead students were infested with STDs. There was the rub. All those hippie students getting all that free sex, or so the stories went.
Nixon called the students bums. He shows up at the Lincoln Memorial to talk to some protestors there and ends up wanting to talk about college football. He just didn’t get it, someone said.
A few days later, the governor of Maryland called out the Guard to occupy the University of Maryland where I was attending night school. How do I explain—
Nothing much has changed. I watched the president talk to the NRA today. How so very much he looked like Mussolini. His physical presence, his mannerism, his scowl. How so very much like Mussolini. But Mussolini got the trains to run on time.
Today, I don’t think it will be the guard. I think instead it will be some version of a militia. Some 2nd amendment folks spurred on by El Duce. But it might be the guard.
Somewhere in the equation Kurtz will be reading The Hollow Men.
The bullshit, he says at the end. The bullshit. The bullshit.