Two years ago, Kaitlin Bennett, a senior at Kent State University decided to bring her automatic rifle to her graduation ceremony.
Bennett is from Zanesville, a city in Muskingum County Ohio, roughly 50 miles east of Columbus. She comes from a family of Republicans and supporters of President Donald Trump. Bennett, however, does not consider herself to be a Republican, but rather a libertarian-conservative, which she defines as being anti-war, anti-drug war and pro-life; she favors a small government, a small military, and believes that taxation is theft.
She’s been living off that 15 minutes of fame ever since. Last week she decided to take her act to Rutgers New Brunswick, from which I graduated in the 1980s. It was largely a non-event. We all know what right wing “journalists” do. They interview 100 people and edit the footage down to 2 or 3 of the dumbest looking people on the left, post it on YouTube or put it in the NY Post, and stir up the outrage among Trump’s base. But Bennett was thwarted by a bearded male student who clowned her out of any opportunity for a good hit piece. You might say *he* was the butt of the joke, but clearly he didn’t mind looking like a fool. So he was in on whatever joke he was the butt of.
For some bizarre reason, nj.com went back to the Christie years and its old habit of fellating the far right and decided, not only to make it a lead story, but to model their headline off of her Tweet.
In reality, nobody called the cops. The Rutgers police just noticed a commotion and swung by to check out what was happening. Oddly enough, they handled the situation fairly well. They didn’t roll in like storm troopers and start busting heads. They just circulated through the crowd and asked questions.
Kaitlin Bennett at Rutgers doesn’t interest me. What does interest me is Kaitlin Bennett at Kent State. The reporting of her antics at her graduation ceremony did mention the famous massacre that took place in 1970s, but only fleetingly, and largely from her point of view (that guns help defend us against tyrannical government). The Kent State Massacre was big news in 1970s. It shut down most of the colleges campuses in the United States. It inspired one of Neil Young’s best songs.
But every once in awhile, I think about how little the violence against the left perpetrated by the United States government in the 1960s and 1970s has entered our historical consciousness. Events like the Kent State Massacre and the assassination of Martin Luther King (and we all know the government did it) are seen as aberrations, not as the norm. The United States is not thought of as an especially repressive place. Even I make jokes about the passivity of the American people compared to the French. But the American people are probably more intimidated than apathetic. Occupy Wall Street was well on its way to transforming our policies towards the banks when it was utterly destroyed by militarized police. The anti-Vietnam-war movement largely shut down after Kent State. Every big city in America has a small class army mislabeled a “police force” designed to keep us from organizing and protesting.
It’s something we need to think about more often. That a dumb right wing grifter could have started her act on the campus where a massacre of the left by the US government took place within my lifetime says a lot about our inability to assimilate our own history. Conservatives might talk about the Second Amendment as protection against a tyrannical government but when was the last time you saw the NRA protest the cops, or a gun crazed psycho attack a military base instead of a grade school? Cowed Americans are often attracted to superficial gestures of bravado like bringing an automatic rifle to a college graduation ceremony but in reality conservatives rarely if ever protest the establishment, and never protest the American ruling class. Most American conservatives, just like most American liberals, are good little sheep who do as they’re told.