“The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
On a quiet afternoon, in a small Ohio university campus, students gathered upon a grassy knoll to protest President Nixon’s expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia.
The protest began peacefully at 12:00 noon, and marked by the sounding of the campus “Victory” bell.
And as that first speaker slowly approached the podium that day, Ohio’s National Guard clicked their ‘safety locks’ to off. Though, these man had been given the order to ‘keep the peace’, they were not sufficiently trained in the tactics of crowd control.
“This is when we’re going to use every part of the law enforcement agency of Ohio to drive them out of Kent. We are going to eradicate the problem. We’re not going to treat the symptoms. And these people just move from one campus to the other and terrorize the community. They’re worse than the brown shirts and the communist element and also the night riders and the vigilantes. They’re the worst type of people that we harbor in America.” – Governor Rhodes as he pounded his fists against his desk.
And, into this gathering ironically wanting most to have peace—in just 13 short seconds, 67 rounds were shot out into the crowd.
Four people died on that day—simply holding open this space for peace and compassion.
And just 11 days later, at a University in Jackson, Mississippi—an additional 140 shots broke through the night’s calm.
To this day, no one knows just why those shots were fired. Though, J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI during this time, was quoted as saying, “the students invited (the shootings) and got what they deserved.”
But, just when is death for the sake of peace ever justified?
In 1970, the Presidential Commission on Campus Unrest (or, Scranton Commission) conducted a thorough investigation of these and other student protests. In addition to determining these actions unjustified, they ruled that these tragedies “must mark the last time that, as a matter of course, loaded rifles are issues to guardsmen confronting student demonstrators.”
In doing so, they set a platform for students throughout this Nation to find their voice without fear of retribution.
May 4, 2013 marks the 43rd anniversary of these tragic events. I can think of no better way to honor their legacy, than to do our best each day to continue what they once started.
Namaste, and peace, my most beautiful friends—may all that we do be infused with compassion’s spirit on this and every single day.
AMAZING PEACE by Maya Angelou
In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.
We tremble at the sound.
We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, and comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.
We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Nonbelievers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves,
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation:
Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.