Thursday, May 05, 2005
THAT LIFE ALTERING MOMENT
It's not that I wasn't giving the politics of the day any thought. I had been impressed with Martin Luther King and was somewhat embarrassed that my church seemed to be on the wrong side of the issue. And I had found Bobby Kennedy to be an inspiring speaker. But I was of the same opinion as my Dad and most others in our neighborhood and church. Anti war protesters and draft dodgers were cowards who would betray their country to save their own skins. Then came the invasion of Cambodia, and the events of May 4th.
My initial reaction to the Kent State Massacre was to side with the governor of Ohio and the National Guard. After all, this was a civil insurrection, there had been looting in town and the campus ROTC building had been burned. I started to have my doubts when it became apparent the guard had fired on an unarmed group of students a full football field away. But that defining moment came a few days later, when Newsweek published "the picture"!
The picture for me was not THE PICTURE, the one of 14 yr. old Mary Ann Vechio kneeling over the dead body of Jeffrey Miller. The picture for me was one of a young man, bare chested and profusely bleeding from a bayonet wound, refusing to back down and in the face of a national guardsman, giving him hell. It hit me like a lightning bolt. This kid is no coward. He is standing down an armed soldier who has already stabbed him. To be brave enough to do that, he must be there because he REALLY BELIEVES in his cause. Maybe I should at least hear him out!
The second week of May was the last time I ever believed anything just because the church, or the government, or my parents told me it was so. Question everything became my personal motto. That questioning would lead me to a lot of unpleasant revelations about the government, politics, and especially, the church. I would gradually become more disenchanted till, finally, in my early thirties, it became clear I didn't buy any of it anymore. I left, never to look back.
So, I can look back now, and say that my life altering moment came from an event that happened not to me personally, but in a place a whole state away. But alter it it did!
Read about the KENT STATE MASSACRE