warning shots are fired at the stomach chest wound
coed falls amped out, amped out, amped out, amped out
changing guns for brooms the guards change to clean-up crews. — Skinny Puppy, "Tin Omen"
So we just passed the 40th anniversary of the shooting at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. I’ll assume most of you know the story, so I’ll spare you the details, enough to say it was a pretty dark moment in our nation’s history.
Perhaps I make too much of things sometimes, but the whole Kent State thing has always bugged me for a very particular reason – I was a member of the Ohio Army National Guard. Of course not when the whole incident went down — I wasn’t even born yet — but still, wearing that uniform, traveling the state, that impression always left an indelible mark on my thinking and interacting with the community.
I’ve often thought about those Guardsmen — 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis.
I try and get in the head of the Guardsmen who fired those rounds — what were they thinking, what could have pushed them to open fire on a bunch of student protesters? I’ve been in some pretty hairy situations where a cool head was demanded but a slip here or a slip there and it could have gone either way.
I was once watched a particularly cool-mo-de Army psy-ops corporal diffuse a near massacre in Iraq by walking up to the leader of the riot, pulling a cigarette out of the man’s breast pocket, slowly drawing it to his lips, and asking the guy, in perfect Arabic, for a light. A tense moment passed between the two before the sheik reached into his shirt and lit the cigarette. “What can we do for you?” the young corporal asked and the situation immediately began to simmer down.