May the Fourth

Y’all remember the true meaning of this date, right?

The National Guard fire tear gas to disperse the crowd of students gathered on the commons, May 4, 1970.


Don’t let the Star Wars jokes distract you from the fact that this is a day to remember the horrors of the police state.

Also note that the guardsmen who murdered four students got away with it. No surprise there.


  1. howdydodat says

    Also important to remember the police shooting of students at Jackson State about a week after. Few do.

  2. Silver Fox says

    Oh, how I remember. It was one of the defining moments of my life. It has colored my thinking about our government and what it is capable of to this day. I was a college freshman at San Jose State. We took to the streets in protest and were promptly met by the SWAT team and a line of police, uniformed and plainclothes. We were maced, cudgeled, beaten and some of us were arrested. I was maced and blinded. I was unable to see. Where to go, what to do? All around me was screaming and yelling and vague shapes moving. The next thing I knew hands were on me — this is it, I thought, I’m being arrested. But, no, it was a young student couple who lived in a nearby off-campus apartment complex. They’d watched the whole thing from their porch. They guided me to their place and let me wash my face in their sink. They were outraged by what had happened. We had broken no laws. It was a peaceful protest. When I was able to function again and my senses returned we said good-bye. They hugged me and wished me luck. I went back to the dorm to a hero’s welcome. All of my friends thought I’d been hauled off by the police. To them I disappeared in haze of smoke and gas. It wasn’t Kent State, no trigger-happy Guardsmen met us, but seeing how willing the authorities were to crush any open dissent with violence was an eye-opener.

    Some people may not recall that the issue that sparked the protests was Nixon’s illegal expansion of the war into Cambodia. He’d promised to end the war, but here he was, in true Nixonian fashion, going back on his word. Remind you of anyone we know?

  3. siwuloki says

    It’s bad enough that they fired on unarmed protesters. These poorly trained and poorly led guardsmen did not clear downrange before opening fire. Two of the dead and several of the wounded that day were not protesting; one of the dead was enrolled in the Kent State ROTC program. All attempts at prosecution of the guardsmen resulted in dismissal or not guilty verdicts.

    I was a freshman at a military school in Missouri – there at my request unlike the Current Occupant. This came at the end of my first year of JROTC. And my final year. I wanted no part in killing Americans.

  4. Larry says

    Four dead in O-hi-o.

    Neil Young’s song about this tragedy is as potent today as it was all those years ago. And with Orange Thumbalina careening about the oval office along with the shitstains reporting to him, we need to be vigilant to ensure it won’t happen again.

  5. feministhomemaker says

    Exactly what I first thought of, that song! Seared into my teenaged memory.

  6. says

    Part of the cause was that the poorly trained weekend warriors were badly led and “just obeyed orders” When you look at pictures of the militarized cops in Ferguson or Baltimore it’s a situation primed to be a whole lot worse: those guys are ready to kick some ass and they’ve got all their military weapons and are ready – maybe eager – to use them. I’d rather face off against the military because they may be stupid but they’re generally not vicious thugs unless you’re Iraqi or Afghani or from Eastasia or whoever we are at war with this week.

    Every time I see a line of cops facing protesters I remember Kent State and I just hope that it doesn’t drop in the pot.

  7. Siobhan says

    @Silver Fox

    i’m glad you (and your friends, it seems) came out okay.

    Not much has changed since, unfortunately. Just look at the footage of the inauguration arrests on January 20th. The “kettle” was formed by indiscriminately pepper spraying protesters until they were backed into a corner. That’s just the most recent example, but really, any big protest will have similar footage, and almost always identical consequences (i.e. none) for the perpetrators.

  8. Dauphni says

    Here in the Netherlands today is the Remembrance of the Dead, dedicated to those who died in WW2 and armed conflicts since, so the Star Wars jokes have always seemed in really bad taste to me.

    We cannot forget.

  9. says

    For whatever little it’s worth, at least Star Wars is in large part a story about the citizenry standing up to and resisting the violent oppression of a fascist regime.

  10. Jessie Harban says

    For whatever little it’s worth, at least Star Wars is in large part a story about the citizenry standing up to and resisting the violent oppression of a fascist regime.

    Like hell it is. In the first six movies, between the Empire’s rise and fall, we never see a single protest.

    In the prequel movies, the Emperor rises to power without a single grassroots protest— Senators (who are apparently unelected) protest and Queens protest and the police state (consisting of conscripts kidnapped as young children) protest, but none of the citizenry seem to care.

    And in the original trilogy, the Rebel Alliance is 100% grasstops— it’s a movement led by princesses and senators, in which the citizenry only ever appear as redshirts trading inaccurate fire with stormtroopers to give the princess time to escape. And let’s not forget that the rebellion’s greatest victories are entirely the product of one person, who by virtue of being born into noble House Skywalker, is inherently superior despite not having any formal training or even being aware of his royal lineage until fate/The Force intervened to make sure the inherently superior male scion of such an aristocratic house was able to take his rightful place in charge of shit.

    Star Wars is authoritarian.

  11. mikehuben says

    I’ve always wept when I saw the picture of Jeffrey Miller dead. Later, my mom told me he was one of her high school English students.

  12. says

    In Denmark, this is the anniversary of the official capitulation of the German occupation troops. It’s marked by placing candles in the windows, I suppose as a reaction to the mandatory blackouts during the occupation.

  13. says

    Much as I continue to hold a large degree of sentimental affection for Star Wars (I was 12 when the first movie came out) I find myself nodding fiercely at every line of SF author David Brin’s series of critiques (going back decades now) of Lucas’ underlying mythology.

    When the chief feature distinguishing “good” from “evil” is how pretty the characters are, it’s a clue that maybe the whole saga deserves a second look.

    Sad observation though: when Brin compares the universe of Star Wars with the universe of Star Trek, and draws parallels with his view of society and public institutions way back there in 1999, it all seems so rosy compared to what we are looking at right now.

    Professionalism is respected [in Star Trek], lesser characters make a difference and henchmen often become brave whistle-blowers — as they do in America today.

    In “Star Trek,” when authorities are defied, it is in order to overcome their mistakes or expose particular villains, not to portray all institutions as inherently hopeless. Good cops sometimes come when you call for help. Ironically, this image fosters useful criticism of authority, because it suggests that any of us can gain access to our flawed institutions, if we are determined enough — and perhaps even fix them with fierce tools of citizenship.

    By contrast, the oppressed “rebels” in “Star Wars” have no recourse in law or markets or science or democracy. They can only choose sides in a civil war between two wings of the same genetically superior royal family. They may not meddle or criticize. As Homeric spear-carriers, it’s not their job.

    Brin also quotes Lucas as defending his ideal of the “benevolent despot” as someone who “can actually get things done”. Wonder to which campaigns Lucas donated?

    The last time I read Brin’s Salon article, I didn’t react particularly strongly to this reference to darker aspects of the myths Joseph Campbell liked to reference positively:

    As in the old fable about a golden-haired king, no one dared point to the bright ruler’s dark shadow, or his long trail of bloody footprints.


  14. psanity says

    Every spring, when I grieve again for the dead and wounded of Kent State, I grieve also for the young national guard kids who fired the shots. It was and is a profound metaphor for the time — our American society was eating its own young, and had no problem with inducing kids to hurt and kill other kids, their (sometimes literal) brothers and sisters. For me, that makes the impact a thousand times worse, the deaths a thousand times more painful.

    It was a beautiful spring day today. So was May 4th, 1970.Never forget how willing people can be to sacrifice their children on the altar of whatever damned thing they’ve decided to worship.

  15. bonzaikitten says

    @15, Tig tog,

    I don’t suppose you know the fable mentioned in the article you referenced? I’d be quite keen to read/hear it!

  16. shadow says


    Ted Nugent and Trump are coming
    unfortunately not alone
    Jeff Sessions is bible humping
    the people he doesn’t know.

  17. says

    @17 bonzaikitten,

    Well that question led me to a welcome meandering through my copy of Brewer’s but sadly no result. I’m not up to finding my copy of the Golden Bough amongst the storage boxes, and I don’t currently have a copy of Campbell, perhaps somebody else might have either/both closer to hand?

  18. says

    Project Gutenberg had my back, with its HTML version of Frazer’s The Golden Bough, where searching for “dark shadow” got me this regarding the origins of the Roman feast of Saturnalia, which is within cooee given that Brin was most likely paraphrasing:

    This famous festival fell in December, the last month of the Roman year, and was popularly supposed to commemorate the merry reign of Saturn, the god of sowing and of husbandry, who lived on earth long ago as a righteous and beneficent king of Italy, drew the rude and scattered dwellers on the mountains together, taught them to till the ground, gave them laws, and ruled in peace. His reign was the fabled Golden Age: the earth brought forth abundantly: no sound of war or discord troubled the happy world: no baleful love of lucre worked like poison in the blood of the industrious and contented peasantry. Slavery and private property were alike unknown: all men had all things in common. At last the good god, the kindly king, vanished suddenly; but his memory was cherished to distant ages, shrines were reared in his honour, and many hills and high places in Italy bore his name. Yet the bright tradition of his reign was crossed by a dark shadow: his altars are said to have been stained with the blood of human victims, for whom a more merciful age afterwards substituted effigies. Of this gloomy side of the god’s religion there is little or no trace in the descriptions which ancient writers have left us of the Saturnalia.

    It’s not an exact match, but it’s got a very similar shape.