by Tommi Avicolli Mecca

The slaughter of four students at Kent State 45 years ago made me realize that I could never be proud to be American. Not that I was. 

I grew up with images on our small-screened black and white television, that my aunt bought at a discount at GE where she worked on an assembly line, of black children blown up in churches and civil rights marchers hosed down and beaten by vicious cops in the South. I learned from the news that all men and women were not created equal in this so-called land of the free. My Papa wasn’t. He was a poor Dago who barely made enough to feed his famiglia. 

I wasn’t created equal, either. I knew that if I told anyone I was attracted to other boys I’d end up ostracized or dead. A nun told my mother at open house one year that I was too much like a girl. Sometimes I fantasized about visiting that bride of Jesus and telling just her how much like a girl I was. 

On May 5, 1970, the day after the murders at Kent State, I joined the thousands of students who walked out of classes at Temple University in North Philly and marched peacefully towards City Hall. About half way there, the boys in blue arrived -- in tanks. They stopped, got out, and dispersed into the crowd, clubbing people. A young woman in front of me didn’t duck quickly enough and went down in a puddle of blood.

I screamed bloody murder. I don’t know why that cop didn’t club me next. He could have. Maybe I scared him by screaming so loudly. Maybe I screamed too much like a girl. No cop in Philly ever had to answer for clubbing those demonstrators. The Ohio National Guardsmen who killed the students at Kent State got off scot-free. In fact, the demonstrators were blamed for what happened. Richard Nixon went on to be re-elected.   

My anger has never subsided. To this day, when I see reports of the Kent State massacre, as I did last night on PBS in a documentary about the end of the 60s, I feel it bubbling up inside me. I see that woman falling onto the ground all over again. I remember that Kent State was one of the reasons I came out of the closet when I did.

It wasn’t long after that demo that I saw a notice in the Temple News about a Gay Liberation Front meeting. Scared out of my mind but determined to do what I had to do, I walked up to the door of that room in the Student Activities Center where the meeting was being held, hesitating several times before finally going in. 

I knew I had to come out. I had nothing to lose. I would never fit into this country. I would never fight its wars. In fact, I registered for the draft in 1969 as a conscientious objector. I would never work for the corporate world. I would never join any of its churches. I would never love its politicians or its police. I would never stop wanting to crush capitalism.

The anger I knew that day after the Kent State killings rises from the pit of my stomach again, 45 years later, as I hear that another black man has been murdered by police, this time in Baltimore. It never ends.

Views: 83

Comment by Arthur James on April 29, 2015 at 7:49am

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Comment by JMac1949 Today on April 29, 2015 at 9:19am

R&L... We don't have to ask why.  That painful question doesn't beg any answer.  The hard question that demands an answer is: What can we do differently to prevent recurrence.  That is corrective and preventive action.  Whenever and however change comes, it will take courage both, political and personal, by everyone of every race... I'm about to publish a post on some historical perspective as we try to find our way to Social Justice through the 14th Amendment.

Comment by koshersalaami on April 29, 2015 at 12:24pm

So you're not proud to be an American. OK. 

Would you be proud to be anything? Maybe I should narrow that down:

Would you be proud to be any nationality?

By the way, it wasn't State Troopers that killed those kids at Kent State, it was incorrectly equipped National Guardsmen. That's not the way cops would have handled a riot at the time. If it had been cops, it would have looked more like Chicago during the 1968 Democratic convention. 

It doesn't bother me that you don't feel proud of being American. That's your business. 

With liberty and justice for all hasn't happened yet. It probably will never happen. In some respects, however, it's closer. A lot closer during your lifetime.

Do you think being Italian is an obstacle to success in today's America?

What's it like being out of the closet today vs. when you came out?

What's currently happening to Black Americans, particularly males, is awful, but understand that one of the reasons it looks awful is that stuff that would have gone unreported before gets reported all over the place now. Cellphones made a huge difference in accountability. This crap always happened but now it on occasion makes headlines. The difference between the murder in Baltimore (and Ferguson and South Carolina and Ohio and Staten Island) and what's gone on for the last 45 years is that you've actually heard about the murder in Baltimore. And the mayor of the city was not Black 45 years ago, nor a woman. The crime of Baltimore is that this phenomenon continues. 

I am not remotely telling you that things are good. They are not. In one respect they are far worse than in 1968 - the wealthy have taken over to an unprecedented extent and we are now operating on a model of Robin Hood In Reverse. From a social standpoint, we're better off now than then, but from an economic standpoint, far worse. The current incarnation of capitalism has gotten too close to that of the Robber Baron era. 

And I am curious about something else. Is there a place in the world where, if you lived, you'd be proud of? Is pride in a nation an operative concept at all? Is there a country you would expect to love? 

Or are you on your way to being Jan Sand and simply believing that humanity sucks?

Comment by Poor Woman on April 29, 2015 at 2:16pm

while I like this post, I don't hate capitalism itself. What I hate is the abuse associated with capitalism. But there was abuse under Mao and Stalin, too.

Humans tend to abuse humans. We suck at "love thy neighbor." 

I am reminded here of that old saw, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

sigh

R&L

Comment by Arthur James on April 29, 2015 at 2:28pm

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Comment by Tommi Avicolli Mecca on April 29, 2015 at 7:22pm

koshersalaami: I made the National Guardsmen correction, thanks for that, and re-wrote the last graph. I'm not sure I'd be proud to be a citizen of any country on the planet, I haven't lived anywhere else so I can't say for sure. I know I'm not proud to be american. I don't like flag waving or patriotism. These days, it's easier to be out of the closet in some places, but there are still gay bashings and trans bashings. Given that even "liberal" California has a pending "death to the homos" ballot proposition, we haven't come far enough. So the answer is it's easier in some ways, but business as usual in others. I agree about that the wealthy have taken over, they own congress and many other legislatures. 

Comment by Arthur James on April 30, 2015 at 10:06am
`
SUGH
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ODD OHO!
`

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