Kent State: One of the defining moments of my youth | Street Jazz

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Kent State: One of the defining moments of my youth

Posted By on Wed, May 5, 2010 at 10:55 AM

It’s almost impossible to describe how conservative I was in junior high and the early part of high school. It was the late 1960s, and I was a military brat on Whiteman Air Force Base, located just outside Kob Noster, Missouri.

On top of being a military brat, Knob Noster Junior High School was in the habit of bringing in conservative speakers to address the student body. Hell, even body builders managed to throw in witty quips about how Vietnam war objectors were “cowards.”

Was it any wonder I supported the war in Vietnam? And regarded the dreaded Hippies with some alarm?

In 1969 my father was stationed to RAF Bruggen, as part of a small American attachment at a Royal Air Force base in northern Germany. While we were waiting for our flight at McGuire Air Force base in New Jersey, I began talking to a young woman who was returning from Germany. We had a short but animated discussion, in which she told me that I would change completely in the three years I would spend over there.

“Not me,” I said.

“Oh, yes. You will,” she assured me.

I thought she was an idiot.

Funny thing about that. There is something about living amongst folks from another culture (not totally “another” as I was born in England) and reading their newspapers that gives you a new view on your country. And for a time I was attending AFCENT High School in Brunssum, Netherlands, which was an international school.

Almost against my will, the blinders around my eyes were being pierced.

In January of 1970 my father was stationed to Zweibrucken Air Force base, an American base further south in Germany. While still pretty conservative, I couldn’t help but notice that most of my classmates (and most of my teachers) were liberal.

I was able to hold onto my pigheadedness until May, 1970, when the students were gunned down at Kent State. To my everlasting shame, I opined to one of my friends that I thought that they deserved it.

What?” he exploded. “What for? What did they do wrong?”

Well, I thought about it. And I thought about it. And I thought about it a lot more, while the subject was debated in class.

Yes, Hamlet, something was rotten in the state of Denmark.

I began to read the news magazines from cover to cover, and listened to all if the debates, and pay attention to what was on TV. Thank you American Forces Television for not having a political agenda - at least in the early 1970s. A lot of liberal political programming got through to us.

Our teachers encouraged debate. It wasn’t like Knob Noster, where invited speakers appealed to caveman patriotism.

I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating. This was a school where one of the offered books for a class reading project was Soul on Ice, by former Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver. Another was The Greening of America, by Charles A. Reich.

Glenn Beck would have been screaming to high heaven, if he had been on the airwaves at the time.

I made friends who were German, and we discussed what was happening in the world, and they saw what was happening in the states.

The young man who returned to the United States in 1972 really was a lot a different from the closed-minded kid with simplistic ideas who had left in 1969.

Too bad it took such a traumatic event to open my eyes.

******

Speaking of school speakers and traumatic events

Laurie Masterson, who has a view of American history and politics that I consider to be somewhat fanciful, has been making the rounds speaking to high schools in the state of Arkansas. Which high schools? I’m sort of assuming that they are the godly sort, and not public schools, which might feel compelled to bring in speakers who might offer a counter view.

*****

Quote of the Day

Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people only once a year. -  Victor Borge

rsdrake@cox.net

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