People have died for your right to vote

By Patrick Saunders
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Today is primary election day. It is also the 40th anniversary of the Kent State shootings, in which four students were killed and many others were wounded by a volley of fire from Ohio National Guardsmen sent to "control" the student rebellion.

Note that I call this event a "rebellion" and not a riot, as the history books record it. Riot means a mob out of control, and the students at Kent were not a mob, but a group of citizens exercising the right of assembly.

The student rebellion at Kent brought about another invasion when Governor James Allen Rhodes ordered units of the Ohio National Guard to assist in quelling it. Students reacted to this invasion with vigor, equating it with what was going on in Cambodia. Another irony of this situation is that the Ohio National Guard was largely made up of young men who enlisted in the Guard to get a "stay home pass" and to not have to serve in Vietnam.

The reason for the rebellion was the invasion of Cambodia by our country (of course, the Nixon Administration called it an "incursion"). The stated purpose of the invasion was to destroy the infrastructure of the Vietnamese National Liberation Front and to attack units of the North Vietnamese Army that were in Cambodia.

The real results of the invasion were the eventual destruction of Cambodia by unrestricted bombing and war, the victory of the Khmer Rouge, and the infamous "Killing Fields," where millions of Cambodians died under the hands of the followers of Pol Pot.

Worldwide reaction to the shootings followed, unless you were overseas in the military and not exposed to non-U.S. news outlets. I found out about the shootings two months after they happened from an airman who was home on leave. We were having a conversation about the war and he said the government was now killing kids back home.

As I listened to him relate the event, I could not believe what I was hearing. My government, in my state, had brought the war to a college campus. If we were killing students on a college campus, who would be next to die because of the war?

Soon after the tragedy at Kent on May 17, the Mississippi State Police opened fire on a student dorm on the campus of Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., killing two students and wounding at least 12 others. The students were protesting the killings at Kent and the invasion of Cambodia, and these shootings have somehow faded into the background of history. Of course, in Mississippi the shooting of a few blacks was not even newsworthy, as it had been a common occurrence in the history of that state.

This primary election day, please remember to vote and vote for those who mirror your thoughts. This year, we have a selection of parties on the ballot, not just the corporate party and its two wings (the Republican and the Democratic parties). We also have an array of the minor parties: Socialist, Libertarian, Constitution and Green Party. So you have no excuse, vote.

If you need a reason, cast your vote in the memory of those students who died for your freedoms on this day 40 years past -- the students of Kent and Jackson State who were killed for asking, "why?"

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