"You guys are so stupid. I can't believe you live here. Why don't you leave?"
"How does your mom like being married to a baby killer?"
"Military people don't have any education. They're too stupid to do anything else."
Think this sounds familiar? Been watching the MSM cover the actions of students at universities around the country? Believe some students at Columbia have uttered these very sentences?
These are but a very few of the taunts I endured growing up in the hometown of a university that was second only to Berkeley in the frequency and fervor of student protests. Methinks we are setting the stage for more of the same... and soon.
The year was 1969. My father, a Lieutenant in the National Guard, was transferred from the state headquarters to become the training officer for an ADA battalion in a college town. The town was almost entirely made up of the university and the businesses that supported and lived off of it. The war was ramping up, protests were growing, and the draft was in force.
By 1972, the war had grown uglier, the protests even more so. Every spring and fall, major protests in the town nearly reduced it to rubble. Shop owners were growing weary of replacing windows nearly every month. Students smoked dope openly in the commons, bars ruled the storefronts, and students were 'voicing their opinions'. Kent State, while 2 years earlier, still held sway in the feelings of students. I was 10 yrs old.
The violence at Kent was often thought to have a chance to occur where we were; the protests there were more common, more violent, and the student body larger. The spring and fall riots were nearly predictable; the setup the Guard had to endure was almost comical. The headquarters, located at the end of the main street in the center of town, was impossible to get to during the riots. At the time, there was a state law that weapons and bolts could not be stored in the same building or facility; if the unit was called out (and it happened several times) they had to get rifles from one location, the rest from another. So, dad would bring the riot gear home (we lived out in the sticks) and others would secure the weapons off-site and guard them until they were called for. Nothing like a truck full of riot gear in your driveway to tell you what was likely to happen.
My neighborhood, while quiet, was way outside of town and populated with approximately 95% university professors or graduate T/A's. To say my family was a minority in the neighborhood was an understatement. Only a high school teacher, a retiree, and a phone company executive kept it from being 100% faculty. Everyone knew what Dad did. No one liked it. We didn't socialize with any of the others in the 'hood. There were tons of kids, and, like kids today, they carried the sins of the fathers with them. Their opinions, their prejudices, their likes and dislikes. Only when Dad got to drive an M151 home were we 'cool' (hey, rules weren't so anal back then). My brother and I bore the brunt of those prejudices, which helped shape me and grow to learn how to deal with conflict and others opinions. It was never easy.
So, what does this have to do with today? Well, I am beginning to see many of the same comments, attitudes, feelings and anger welling up in people now. I am beginning to hear the whispers, the unkind looks like those back in the day. The politics, just like then, are changing and in flux. There is confusion, there is an uncertainty in the air. There is a war that is getting more unpopular by the week. The media is feeding and feeding off of it; evening news is leading off with body counts (seen Katie lately?). Thankfully, my kids are still too young to have to endure the taunts and fights; but you can bet I'll prepare them when they do get older.
We need to push hard in the coming months and years to ensure that tolerance is truly welcome, that we don't regress to the days where it was near anarchy in many places. Students need to realize that free speech is truly for all- that just because someone is different, their actions will truly define their hearts. Those that are good, will act so. And those that are not, well, we only have to wait and watch.