Kent State Anniversary Blues
By PAUL KRASSNER
April 16-18, 2010
In my book, Magic Mushrooms and Other Highs: From Toad Slime to
Ecstasy, Freddy Berthoff described his mescaline trip at a Crosby,
Stills, Nash and Young concert in the summer of 1970 when he was 15.
"Earlier that spring," he wrote, "the helmeted, rifle-toting National
Guard came up over the rise during a peace-in-Vietnam rally at Kent
State University. And opened fire on the crowd. I always suspected it
was a contrived event, as if someone deep in the executive branch had
said, 'We've got to teach those commie punks a lesson.'" Actually,
President Nixon had called antiwar protesters "bums" two days before
the shootings. While Freddy was peaking on mescaline, CSNY sang a new
song about the massacre:
Tin soldiers and Nixon coming
We're finally on our own
This summer I hear the drumming
Four dead in O-hi-o…
Plus nine wounded. Sixty-seven shots dum-dum bullets that exploded
upon impact -- had been fired in 13 seconds. This incident on May 4,
1970 resulted in the first general student strike in U.S. history,
encompassing over 400 campuses.
Arthur Krause, father of one of the dead students, Allison, got a
call from John Ehrlichman, Assistant to the President for Domestic
Affairs, who said, "There will be a complete investigation." Krause
responded, "Are you sure about that?" And the reply: "Mr. Krause, I
promise you, there will be no whitewash."
But NBC News correspondent James Polk discovered a memo marked "Eyes
Only" from Ehrlichman to Attorney General John Mitchell ordering that
there be no federal grand jury investigation of the killings, because
Nixon adamantly opposed such action.
Polk reported that, "In 1973, under a new Attorney General, Elliot
Richardson, the Justice Department reversed itself and did send the
Kent State case to a federal grand jury. When that was announced,
Richardson said to an aide he got a call from the White House. He was
told that Richard Nixon was so upset, they had to scrape the
president off the walls with a spatula."
Last year, Allison Krause's younger sister, Laurel, was relaxing on
the front deck of her home in California when she saw the County
Sheriff's Deputy coming toward her, followed by nearly two dozen men.
"Then, before my eyes," she recalls, "the officers morphed into a
platoon of Ohio National Guardsmen marching onto my land. They were
here because I was cultivating medical marijuana. I realized the
persecution I was living through was similar to what many Americans
and global citizens experience daily. This harassment even had
parallels to Allison's experience before she was murdered."
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?
Now, 40 years later, Laurel, her mother and other Kent State
activists have been organizing the "2010 Kent State Truth Tribunal"
scheduled for May 1-4 on the campus where the slaughter of unarmed
demonstrators originally occurred. The invitation to participate in
sharing their personal narratives has been extended to 1970
protesters, witnesses, National Guardsmen, Ohio and federal
government officials, university administrators and educators, local
residents, families of the victims. The purpose is to uncover the truth.
Laurel was 0nly 15 when the Kent State shootings took place. "Like
any 15-year-old, my coping mechanisms were undeveloped at best. Every
evening, I remember spending hours in my bedroom practicing
calligraphy to Neil Young's 'After the Goldrush,' artistically
copying phrases of his music, smoking marijuana to calm and numb my
pain." When she was arrested for legally growing marijuana, "They
cuffed me and read my rights as I sobbed hysterically. This was the
first time I flashed back and revisited the utter shock, raw
devastation and feeling of total loss since Allison died. I believed
they were going to shoot and kill me, just like Allison. How ironic,
I thought. The medicine that kept me safe from experiencing
post-traumatic stress disorder now led me to relive that horrible
experience as the cops marched onto my property."
She began to see the interconnectedness of those events. The
dehumanization of Allison was the logical, ultimate extension of the
dehumanization of Laurel. Legally, two felonies were reduced to
misdemeanors, and she was sentenced to 25 hours of community service.
But a therapist, one of Allison's friends from Kent State, suggested
to Laurel that the best way to deal with the pain of PTSD was to make
something good come out of the remembrance, the suffering and the
pain. "That's when I decided to transform the arrest into something
good for me," she says, "good for all. It was my only choice, the
only solution to cure this memorable, generational, personal angst.
My mantra became, 'This is the best thing that ever happened to me.'
And it has been." That's why she's fighting so hard for the truth to
burst through cement like blades of grass.
Paul Krassner is the editor of The Realist. His books include: Pot
Stories for the Soul, One Hand Jerking and Murder at the Conspiracy
Convention. He can be reached through his website: http://paulkrassner.com/