So the first thing I heard on the radio this morning was CSNY's "Ohio," and I was a bit surprised not to hear any commentary from the Boomer Overlords about the anniversary day of the most significant event to happen at my alma mater.
There's a parking lot now where the shooting happened and every year lots of aging hippies crawl out of the woodwork to protest downtown, women with hair down to their knees and faded Oberlin College t-shirts, men with coolie hats and t-shirts with the Vietnam flag on them telling you "I was there, maaaan!" and all sorts of other types who show up for such things.
Because of my reputation as a "random force of chaos" and because despite my introverted tendencies I somehow get acquainted with a strange mix of people, I ended up hanging out with a crusty punk kid with feathers in his matted hair who called himself Cobalt who'd ridden on top of trains to get here for the big protest (this was in the heart of Dubya's second term). His clothes smelled so bad that the ARA girl he knew here had to hang them outside her dorm room window.
He joined our dinner table and watched the Black Keys with my crew of friends (who told me afterwards "we just all assumed that he was someone you knew"). We all went to the playground at midnight to go on the swings and hang out in the parking lot and then the next day me and him sat outside debating politics and religion while while eating out of a jar of ancient organic peanut butter with our fingers. He was "fighting capitalism" by stealing pens from campus offices so people couldn't write checks and coughing up blood every five minutes and I'm amazed I didn't get sick, but I did buy him food on my meal plan because I had a week of school left and a few hundred dollars to burn. I wonder where he is now.
We had a May 4th room in the library that was a popular destination for vacationing Freedom Rockers and a haunt for dirty old men as it had a computer and was dark, and every year the school has a big symposium where the likes of Bobby Seale and Jello Biafra speak, music by people like Country Joe, and a lot of general hagiography and accompanying mythology surrounding the event. It's like 9/11 for the Woodstockers and their acolytes more or less. "Tell me Father, did they aim?, and all that.
I asked my dad about it, since I grew up on his record collection full of Creedence, Neil Young, and Hendrix, and since he had neither money or grades for college and didn't want to Vietnam if he didn't have to (being skeptical of our reasons for being there), he was in the National Guard at the time, but stationed in Toledo (going off base to see the MC5 at Bowling Green and feeling like he looked like a spook) and he says that the 60's had a lot of great music but were hell to live through.
He doesn't have much patience for most of his generation and this probably explains a lot of my cynicism about suburban crackers who listened to Zeppelin and now dig smooth jazz, who wax poetic about "True Revolutionaries like Che Guevara" but drive new SUVs and live in the suburbs away from all "those people" but will tell you about that one black friend they had in college who had an Afro and was down with Malcolm X.
There were a lot of activist groups when I was there, and while there were some really great people who've no doubt gone on to try to save the world, there were also a lot of holier-than-thou types who believed that bathing was "fascist" and more than a few trust-fund socialists from Hudson who drove nice cars and wore Nautica chinos with their Che shirt and it was very hard for me to take them seriously when I was selling my books and CDs for grocery money, working 30 hours a week, and walking everywhere.
Certain members of my family blame my Kent State education for making me a flaming liberal but if anything, my time there soured me on both sides so completely as things like Abu Ghraib and the torture memos began to come out and the rank hypocrisy of those who claim to be more moral and Christian justified the unjustifiable but the left wasn't a friendly place to born-again pro-lifers like yours truly who are too skeptical about general human nature to believe that we can build a better tomorrow through greater bureaucracy and Kum-Ba-Yah.