My social media feeds reminds me it was 45 years ago.
May 4, 1970.
Four students at Kent State University in Ohio, who were protesting the Vietnam War, were shot and killed by the members of the Ohio National Guard. I was a senior in high school at the time and just beginning to pay attention to the news beyond what was happening in my school or the community in which I live. Maybe I was paying more attention because I was planning on going to college and so would receive a student deferment to the draft while a number of my classmates would not and would most likely be drafted and end up in Vietnam.
In some ways 45 years ago feels like yesterday.
Like many of my generation, the Civil Rights Movement and then the Anti-war Movement shaped who we were and how we looked at and thought about the world. Some memories and images remain fresh in my mind.
- Watching the evening news with my parents and, each day, listening to the number of Americans killed that day and the total death count for the entire war. That daily reminder, missing from our most recent wars, more than anything else changed the public perception of the war.
- A conversation with my parents, who had once been ardent supporters of the President, tell me that if my younger brother got a low lottery number I was to take him to Canada.
- Meeting with governing board of the small church in which I grew up and asking that group of men, many of whom had been in the armed forces in either World War II or the Korean War, to support my application to be a Conscientious Objector.
Maybe my sense of social justice began in those swirling days of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
It is good to remember, not for the sake of nostalgia, but to touch again the conviction and the passion that gave me the courage to organize and to lead marches and to speak up and out about what I believed.
As I get older it is easier to be cautious.
But the truth is I don’t want to be cautious.
I want to be reminded of what matters.
Both then and now.
I want to speak up today, like I did then, about what matters.