Well, you know what happened next. Faced with insults like that, the students upped the ante; to which the Guard responded with tear gas. (As Che tells it, you were nobody back then until you’d been tear-gassed, and then you could get laid anywhere, at any time. Never been tear-gassed myself.) Finally on Monday, May 4, a mass rally was held, the administration tried to cancel it, to no avail. The Guard tried to break it up. They fired tear gas, but the wind blew it away. The cry went up: “Pigs off campus!” The kids threw rocks and empty tear-gas canisters. And then the Guard fired back – not with rocks but with real, live bullets. In thirteen seconds, 67 rounds were fired and when the shooting stopped, four kids lay dead.
And that, my friends, was the end of the student protest movement.
Sure, some of the alter cockers on our side will tell you that’s not how it was, that the movement continued, that the fight went on and the dream never died. But that’s a lot of hooey. The minute those young Guardsmen turned their M1s on the crowd, and the student protestors got an ugly lesson in the first rule of protest – never throw rocks at guys with guns – that was pretty much the end of the violent prelude to our current conflict. (Luckily for us, no one cares about newly declassified FBI files relating conversations among agitators planning to torch businesses and the campus ROTC headquarters and foment a riot, and credible reports of shots fired first at the Guards.)
But after Kent State, the movement went both underground, with the heroic Weathermen bombers (shame about that townhouse in Greenwich Village) and, much more effectively, above ground: into the schools, the law firms, the journalism programs, the civil-rights movement, the environmentalist movement (which, believe it or not, actually started in the seventies, with the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970 – inspired by a call from a Democrat senator and activist named Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin) where, like the syphilis virus, it went dormant for decades until it finally burst forth, with what happy results we now enjoy. We are nothing if not incubators.
Now, just between us, I have no more intention of giving up my Escalade than I do of jumping off a bridge: hardship and penury are for the little guy, not big-time screenwriters like me. But if you think back over the events of the past several decades or so, you will see how even the craziest notions that we introduce gradually get accepted, mostly by sheer dint of our repetition. So that what started as a “clean up the garbage day” back in 1970 has gloriously turned into the “carbon dioxide is a pollutant” transparent but potent nonsense of our own time. Really, you have to give us some credit: what other movement could convince you that the very air you exhale is dangerous to the planet, and will eventually charge you a tax for the privilege of not having to hold your breath until you turn blue and die?
There, I said it: die! The purpose of war is to kill your enemy, but after Kent State – when it was we who were getting killed – we had to stop fighting up front and out in the open, and instead begin a gradual process of getting you to kill yourselves. Now, that’s what I call a Cold War! Probably for the first time in history, one side pins its hopes of winning on the other’s gullibility and willingness to believe even the most patently impossible things: Polar bears who can’t swim! Melting ice caps! Seas rising! And that’s simply “global warming,” the magnificent hoax with which we succeeded “global cooling” when that one didn’t work out thirty years ago.
But there’s oh-so-much more: