For me, Kent State was the end of hoping government could do the right thing. As a college student during the Sixties I supported a social revolution, a hippie consciousness of equality for all. Yeah, all Americans were human beings who deserved respect, a decent job, safety that included health care and hope that a kid wearing a hoodie wouldn’t be shot.
For fifty years we’ve been arguing and speaking out for seemingly obvious citizen needs — not privileges — encompassing equal pay for women and minorities.
Government support still hinges on social class/how much money is hidden in your Cayman Islands’ bank account. Corporate welfare reigns, not citizen welfare.
“This [pandemic] crisis is exposing the class savagery of American democracy and the economic carnage that it has always countenanced.”
As a journalist, years ago, I interviewed a 92-year-old sociologist toward the end of her life:
“Looking back over your lifetime what concerns you the most?” I asked.
“That we’re still fighting over the same issues,” she replied.
How can that be? I Don’t want to be lamenting our lack of progress if I’m lucky enough to live for twenty more years. I’m haunted by that possibility.
“Words matter” or “The pen is mightier than the sword?” That’s why I keep at this blog. “The Little Engine That Could” comes to mind. That’s me, although I have no idea if my posts matter.
Then I recall former students who have written to me, spanning decades, reminding me of a teacher’s impact.
“You care for us like a mother, which is part of the best teaching,” one wrote. I had no idea.
So I keep on keepin’ on.
Thinking of our history and all the shit that’s gone down physically hurts: Slavery and its aftermath still lives; women earn less on the dollar and black women even less; the US is the only developed country without nationalized health insurance; scared old white men will do anything to stop progress; gun deaths proliferate; mental health means you’re on your own — in prison or under a bridge.
But today I’m thinking about Kent State. As Harvard historian Jill Lapore writes in the current New Yorker, “Did we ever leave it?”