rn: My Son Died 30 Yrs. Ago at Kent State (myth of benign America too)


Jan Slakov

Date: Thu, 04 May 2000 08:10:54 -0700
From: CyberBrook <•••@••.•••>
Subject: My Son Died 30 Years Ago At Kent State

Thursday, May 4, 2000 in the Seattle Times

        My Son Died 30 Years Ago At Kent State
                        by Elaine Holstein

                 Today is the 30th anniversary of the killing of four 
students - including my son Jeff Miller - at Kent State University by the 
Ohio National Guard.

                 At a few minutes past noon today, I am once again 
observing this anniversary - an anniversary that marks not only the most 
tragic event of my life but also one of the most disgraceful episodes in 
American history.

                 Thirty years! That's 10 years longer than Jeff's life. He 
had turned 20 just a month before he decided to attend the protest rally 
that ended in his death and the deaths of Allison Krause, Sandy Scheuer and 
Bill Schroeder, and the wounding of nine of their fellow students.

                 That Jeff chose to attend that demonstration came as no 
surprise to me. Anyone who knew him in those days would have been shocked 
if he had decided to sit that one out.

                 There were markers along the way that led him inexorably 
to that campus protest. At the age of 8, Jeff wrote an article expressing 
his concern for the plight of black Americans. I learned of this only when 
I received a call from Ebony magazine, which assumed he was black and 
assured me he was bound to be a "future leader of the black community."

                 Shortly before his 16th birthday, Jeff composed a poem he 
called "Where Does It End?" In it, he expressed the horror he felt about 
"the War Without a Purpose." So when Jeff called me on the morning of May 
4th and told me he planned to attend a rally to protest the "incursion" of 
U.S. military forces into Cambodia, I merely expressed my doubt as to the 
effectiveness of still another demonstration.

                 "Don't worry, Mom," he said. "I may get arrested, but I 
won't get my head busted." I laughed and assured him I wasn't worried.

                 The bullet that ended Jeff's life also destroyed the 
person I had been - a naive, politically unaware woman. Until the spring of 
1970, I would have stated with absolute assurance that Americans have the 
right to dissent publicly from the policies pursued by their government. 
The Constitution says so.

                 And even if the dissent got noisy and disruptive, was it 
conceivable that an arm of the government would shoot at random into a 
crowd of unarmed students? With live ammunition? No way!

                 The myth of a benign America was one casualty of the 
shootings at Kent State. Another was my assumption that everyone shared my 
belief that we were engaged in a no-win situation in Vietnam and had to get 

                 As the body count mounted and the footage of napalmed 
babies became a nightly television staple, I was certain that no one would 
want the war to go on. The hate mail that began arriving at my home after 
Jeff died showed me how wrong I was.

                 To most people, Kent State is just one of those traumatic 
events that occurred during a tumultuous time. To me, it's the one 
experience I will never recover from. It's also the one gap in my 
communication with my older son, Russ: Neither of us dares to talk about 
what happened at Kent State for fear that we'll open floodgates of emotion 
we can't deal with.

                 Whenever there is another death in the family, we not only 
mourn the elderly parent or grandparent or aunt who has passed away; we 
also experience again the loss of Jeff.

Elaine Holstein lives in New York. She can be reached at 

[P.S. Two days after this incident, two black students at Jackson State 
University in Mississippi were also killed by the National Guard. These six 
students were peacefully and constitutionally protesting an unjust war and 
tragically became victims of it.]