Kent State: What Happened and Why

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Kent State: What Happened and Why

Author: James A. Michener
Publisher: Fawcett
Copyright: 1981
Pages: 512

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All of James A. Michener's storytelling and reportorial skills are brought to the fore in this stunning and heartbreaking examination of the events that led to the 1970 shootings at Kent State University, which shook the country to the roots & had a profound impact on the anti-war movement. "What strikes me most about this book is the vast, almost unimaginable, difference between the public reaction to the Kent State shootings and reaction to contemporary campus tragedies such as Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University. Even allowing for the difference in the nature of these incidents (students being shot by National Guardsmen vs. students being shot by lone psycho gunmen) it still boggles my mind to think that, as Michener asserts, the dead students and the survivors received almost ZERO public sympathy or support...regardless of whether or not they participated in the demonstrations...even if they were indeed just innocent bystanders.

Many surviving students were repeatedly told 'you all deserved to be shot.' There was little if any concern about their emotional well-being or even the logistics of helping students finish the academic year (some professors seem to have gone quite a few extra miles in this regard, without benefit of email or the Internet as we have today). Most of the students who survived this incident would now be in their late 50s--more than old enough to be parents of today's victims of a very different kind of campus violence.

It would be interesting to find out their take on what's happening today. I would recommend reading this book right now simply to get an idea of how far we have come in dealing with the aftermath of such tragedies. --Elaine M. Spencer

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Background Information

The United States slid slowly into the position previously held by France in Indochina and became engulfed in a long war in Vietnam.