Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Kent State on NPR

Interview with yours truly on the Kent State NPR station HERE.

Photo by reporter Jeff St. Clair. I'm standing on Blanket Hill, right at the spot the Guardsmen wheeled as one and opened fire. Fifty or so protestors were at the bottom of the hill. See that lone kid walking in the parking lot there? That's just about where Jeff Miller was standing when an inch-long copper-jacketed bullet tore through his open mouth and blasted out the back of his skull, killing him instantly. 

In that parking lot beyond, 500 students walked innocently past, on their way to and from class. Eight to 10 soldiers fired directly into that lot, emptying their clips. 

One of the shooters' initial excuses for this massacre was that they were "surrounded" and in "fear for our lives." Look at the distance involved here. Would you find that kid in the parking lot a potential threat in any way? There were no protestors on the hill. There were about 100 kids watching from the Taylor Hall terrace on the right, not protesting, just observing the spectacle. The student farthest from the Guard who was hit was in front of that building in the distance, the length of over two football fields away. He was shot through the neck, the bullet miraculously missing both his spine and jugular by a fraction of an inch.

Despite the release of Kent State being delayed until September, thanks to the lockdown, it's still generated some media attention. There's no such thing as bad publicity, of course, but it's frustrating that it's unavailable for anything other than pre-order. Ah well, that's just the hand that's been dealt.

This week, I got a nice write-up in The New Yorker, which hails Kent State as "gut-wrenching.'"

"This spring marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Kent State shootings, an occasion explored in Derf Backderf’s deeply researched and gut-wrenching graphic nonfiction novel, Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio” (forthcoming from Abrams ComicArts). Backderf was ten years old in 1970, growing up outside Kent; the book opens with him riding in the passenger seat of his mother’s car, reading Mad, and then watching Richard Nixon on television. “Kent State” reads, in the beginning, like a very clever college-newspaper comic strip—not unlike early “Doonesbury,” which débuted that same year—featuring the ordinary lives of four undergraduates, Allison Krause, Jeff Miller, Sandy Scheuer, and Bill Schroeder, their roommate problems, their love lives, their stressy phone calls with their parents, and their fury about the war. As the violence intensifies, Backderf’s drawings grow darker and more cinematic: the intimate, moody panels of smart, young, good people, muddling through the inanity and ferocity of American politics yield to black-backed panels of institutional buildings, with the people around them saying completely crazy things, then to explosive splash pages of soldiers, their guns locked and loaded, and, finally, to a two-page spread of those fateful thirteen seconds: “boom!” “bang!” “bang! bang! pow!”