Why Today is Not Like Kent State and Nixon is Not Like Trump
If you get to my age, you will have heard and read such a large amount of bulls**t that it gathers together into one giant rubber band ball of solid b.s.
People are calling Ted Cruz the Zodiac Killer and a child molester. Nobody really knows who the Zodiac Killer was. He’s probably dead by now. And this is a real child molester:
So right now people who oppose Donald Trump are busy comparing him to Hitler or the other big scary guy they think everyone hates: Richard Nixon.
People are so confused they don’t know that Richard Nixon a) did not start the Vietnam war; and b) he ended it. Most likely the extent of what they know is “Watergate.” Watergate was a burglary of the Democratic Campaign Headquarters at the really ugly Watergate hotel in Washington, D.C. I have driven by this edifice numerous times. During the Clinton I. era it’s my understanding it was the home of both Monica Lewinsky and Sen. Bob Dole, the WWII war hero and former Presidential candidate, who reportedly liked to cavort on one of the ugly Watergate balconies in his boxers.
So here’s what President Nixon said, 3 days before the Kent State shootings. This is a link to the transcript of the news conference of his remarks.
[Qtd. from The American Presidency Project] On a visit to the Pentagon on May 1, 1970, the President, during an informal conversation with one of a group of employees who had gathered in a corridor to greet him, made the following remarks which were taped by a reporter who accompanied the President to the Pentagon:
You think of those kids out there. I say “kids.” I have seen them. They are the greatest.
You see these bums, you know, blowing up the campuses. Listen, the boys that are on the college campuses today are the luckiest people in the world, going to the greatest universities, and here they are burning up the books, I mean storming around about this issue — I mean you name it — get rid of the war; there will be another one.
Out there we’ve got kids who are just doing their duty. I have seen them. They stand tall, and they are proud. I am sure they are scared. I was when I was there. But when it really comes down to it, they stand up and, boy, you have to talk up to those men. And they are going to do fine; we’ve got to stand back of them.
It has been asserted by at least two paid commenters who are writing books of dubious provenance about former President Nixon that “This was the first time” such comments had been made in U.S. history, and that the comments were the cause of the Kent State shootings May 4, 1970, 3 days later.
Except. Kent State’s own Sociology Department has written extensively about the event. This report details wrong (in some cases, really wrong) textbooks and many other errors regarding the events of that day, during which four students were shot to death and nine others injured.
I thought about these poor quality articles I’d read in major publications seeking to compare Donald Trump’s speeches and statements like “I’d like to punch that guy in the face!” and “If you want to punch that guy, I’ll pay your legal fees” and so-on to the Kent State incident.
The assertion that Nixon calling student protesters, who’d been going for years (“Hey, Hey LBJ, How Many Kids Did You Kill Today?”) to ‘bums’ because they hadn’t faced the type of fire drafted soldiers had in Vietnam for years — leading to the National Guard firing on the student protesters at Kent State (who’d been protesting for weeks previously) was “the first time in U.S. history”— blah blah blah Nixon blah Hitler blah Trump blah Mussolini.
I thought about what I know about the Civil Rights movement and stuff like, oh, well I just finished writing about the Napoleonic era, and it’s hard not to do that without reading about Robespierre —blood, blades and baskets.
I decided that these Nixon/Kent State/Trump comparisons go beyond the level of average internet clickbait and history bulls**t. They’re such an insult to the Civil Rights movement. Like they can’t even say that they think Trump is acting like Alabama Gov. George Wallace, who stood on the steps of the schoolhouse and forbade black students to enter in 1963. Wallace ordered the National Guard to beat down, set dogs upon and even fire upon the marchers from Selma to Montgomery in 1968. A total white supremacist, fueled by anti-Civil Rights rhetoric from every Southern politician, had gunned down Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. just months before Kent State (all of these politicians were Democrats, by the way). In addition to the attacks on peaceful Civil Rights marchers and imprisonments of their leaders (I have read a letter, and it was written “From Birmingham Jail”) — just regular, ordinary people trying to vote were beaten, tortured, lynched and shot.
As a white person I can say that at first, I got interested in Richard Nixon due to driving by his Presidential library countless times and I thought, “I should go in …” and realized that this person was completely different from what I’d been taught in school or heard from people older than me who hated him and used his name interchangeably with — oh, Hitler. So I wanted to find out what he was really like.
This guy is being paid (I assume) to write yet another book about Nixon.
One begins to wonder if a wide swath of American voters have no historical memory at all. If people today think that Trump’s agitation is appropriate, or as he puts it, basically harmless, then they were not alive during the Nixon administration in 1970, when exactly this sort of reckless political hate-mongering held America in its awful grip — and even took a deadly turn.
OK, douchehat. Since I write books for kids and some parts of textbooks and stuff like that, I have a concern for facts.
Two months before Kent State, Richard Nixon’s Administration accomplished the desegregation of the schools in the South by means of withdrawing funds from all states that had ignored Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and Alexander vs. Holmes (1969) — which found that 16 years was more than enough time to desegregate schools. In 1970, seven states — Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina — still had separate, racist, unequal school systems. Nixon was the one who changed that.
Nixon ended the Vietnam War. He ended the Draft. It was he who had become interested in an all-volunteer army prior to his first Presidential campaign in 1968. President Carter re-started the draft in 1980, having pardoned the so-called “draft dodgers” in 1977. The wheels turn slowly in government.
Nixon started the Environmental Protection Agency. He opened relations with China in an effort to reduce conflict with the Communist nation. In 1974, he proposed a comprehensive national health plan similar to that of Canada’s. I really do not know why the bipartisan plan that would have been a “single payer” plan operated by each state that would provide health care for every American failed — it initially was developed with former Sen. Ted Kennedy. However, I can sort of guess, having accomplished things like desegregating completely segregated Southern schools in numerous states, instituting the first agency regulating pollution that was doing stuff like setting Lake Erie on fire and creating horrors like Love Canal, getting rid of the Draft and finally ending the Vietnam War, and working with the opposite side in Congress to pass single-payer National health coverage —
The powers-that-be who wanted to keep making money, keep the military-industrial complex (war, huge drafted army, all those weapons, maybe even armed conflict with China or Russia) wouldn’t like Richard Nixon.
They hate him to this day. They tell you who to like and how to vote. They don’t just lie about Richard Nixon. He’s the one I know about, because I took the time to leave the freeway and spend time at his library. One thing changed my mind about him.
At that time at the Nixon Library, they had some simple 3-ring binders on a coffee table which held hand-written letters from his time in office. I sat down and leafed through the letters.
I had much the same reaction as this Chicago Tribune writer did.
The man people like that Politico writer with his big NY book contract call Richard Nixon all kinds of names. They state they know what kind of man he was from listening to hours of tapes.
Richard Nixon made mistakes. He did not rehire many of those who served on the incredible governing team he had during his first term: a bipartisan team that accomplished many of the achievements such as the EPA, actual desegregation of resistant, segregated schools across the South, and movements toward ending the Vietnam war. He listened to Haldeman and Ehrlichman at length and sat around plotting and complaining about poor media coverage. He isolated himself and increased his paranoia.
I listened to lots of those tapes too. And I’m from California. My background is a lot more like Richard Nixon’s than like any of the people who write book after book about how horrible he was.
Nixon was socially awkward. He was a man who tried to do too much and he paid the price. A Quaker who hated war and wrote a personal letter to the family of every servicemember lost in Vietnam; a young man who grew up poor, losing his brother to tuberculosis because his family couldn’t afford treatment and proposed universal health care; now the average student thinks he’s “Tricky Dick” or the next thing to Mussolini or Hitler.
Or Donald Trump.