Daily Connector | Get busy livin’ | Dan Halterman

“What is this world coming to?  Again.”

The President announcing his latest strategy for solving an “asian problem,” social strife rushing across the nation, fear of family members, college students evacuated from their rapidly closed campuses to avoid further deaths, a governor insisting, “We are going to eradicate the problem. We're not going to treat the symptoms.” Flag-waving right-wing groups protesting.

All that is from 1970.   Fifty years ago this week, specifically, looked a lot like today.

On Thursday April 30, 1970, President Nixon on prime time announced that U.S. and Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) forces had crossed from South Vietnam into Cambodia to find and destroy major command centers and staging areas of the North Vietnam Army and Viet Cong communist guerrillas.

The already long-unpopular war had fueled protests and demonstrations and this expansion, labeled here as an invasion of Cambodia, was gasoline on hot coals.  An anti-war protest on Friday May 1 at Kent State University moved to neighboring downtown Kent, with broken windows and other damage and a declaration of a state of emergency.  The Ohio National Guard, troops already tired and wary from a Teamsters strike, arrived Saturday night as the campus R.O.T.C building was torched and student protestors cut fire hoses.  Sunday was largely peaceful until nightfall when protesters again went downtown and were forced back onto campus by the Guard.  Monday morning, a lovely May day, students gathered on campus, a Guard officer read the order to disperse, and amid tear gas and confusion, 13 seconds heard 67 shots and four students were dead and nine wounded by Guard bullets.

KSU was immediately closed and evacuated. Antiwar protests exploded on campuses nationwide and many closed early for the year.  At Mississippi’s Jackson State College (now University) in a night of violence, police shot and killed 2 two and wounded 12.

And anti-war protests were routinely met with “hard hat” opponents.

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes a lot.” This line, commonly attributed without factual basis to Mark Twain, is routinely proven true.

So today (written on Monday of this week, May 4) I and thousands more lost the planned and much-anticipated KSU May 4 50th Anniversary event because the school was, again, closed to prevent more death.

It’s an interesting irony and I wonder how many grandchildren of Kent students evacuated in 1970 are finishing this academic year with on-line classes after an early and hasty departure from campus.

Except for the 13 students shot, everyone else in the Kent State community of 1970 moved on in different ways.  Only history will tell how that works for the current students and for each of us counting already our losses in these early days of the Covid19 global pandemic.

I’ve lost so little, solely conveniences, except for hugs with my children.  They’ve both lost much more, my son’s planned and prepared Appalachian Trail thru-hike start and his grad school graduation, and my daughter’s employment and “normal life.”

Aware that I may yet lose much more, I repeat daily my favorite line from “The Shawshank Redemption”: “It comes down to a simple choice - get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.”  "GBL" for "get busy livin'" has been my personal mantra for about two years.

And with that idea integrated, I believe these weeks of sobering statistics of death have reminded me with a bit more oomph to “get busy livin’” and attend to moments, hours, days, and people and other life.  May it be so for each of us.