Guest Commentary - Trump’s Tin Soldiers:Tyranny requires a backup army

Justice Department won't reopen probe of 1970 Kent State shootings ...

By Michael Monasky | May 4, 2020 |

Today marks the ignominious 50th anniversary of the massacre at Kent State University. Businessman-governor James A. Rhodes unleashed the Ohio National Guard on that fateful spring Noon on the campus to shoot and kill protesting students who had burned down the Reserved Officers Training Corps building two nights before.

Monday, May fourth was my eighteenth birthday; I’d already dropped out of college and was working as a computer operator at a medium-sized industrial manufacturing plant in Cleveland, Ohio. Kent is about 40 miles south of Cleveland, and I had a cousin who attended there. By mid-afternoon I’d emerged from my duties in the climate-controlled operations center only to hear that four students had been gunned down by troops sent in by the governor. There was real fear in the faces of the younger workers; a middle-aged co-worker declared “they should have shot more of them.” Management appeared to agree.

The late 1960s were a mixed bag of terrible violence, civil outrage, technological achievement, and cultural upheaval. The 1968 assassinations of MLK and RFK took place in the five-year conflagration of neglected inner cities. I graduated high school in June 1969; Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in July. Woodstock Festival of Music happened in August. But the Vietnam Conflict remained a quagmire for the administration of Lyndon Johnson. That November, I marched in Washington, D. C., with about a half-million others to stop the war. In spring 1971 I was notified by the Selective Service, while the draft was still in place, that my records were missing. A regional branch of the Berrigan brothers’ Conspiracy to Save Lives burglarized the county draft board; they took the records, replaced them with balloons and party favors. A message to the board from the CSL admonished the matronly staff that they should celebrate life with their sons, not send them off to a senseless war to kill and be killed.

In 1970, rock and roll performer Neil Young composed what became an anthem for those of us whose lives were modified by these events.

Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming; We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drumming; Four dead in Ohio
Gotta get down to it; Soldiers are cutting us down; Should’ve been done long ago
What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground; 
How could you run when you know?

There appears a striking, violent parallel between the tragic troops ordered to patrol a university that fateful day in May 1970 and the assembled, misguided militias we see at many statehouses today. This time the armed forces compose the ranks of those protesting the governments’ actions to quarantine. This time the fear, ignorance, and firepower demonstrated by the Ohio National Guard at the Kent State campus fifty years ago is embodied today in these testy, tin soldiers that appear on the doorsteps of civil government. I have memorialized this in a poem that fits the meter of Neil Young’s original song.


Raw Nerves at the Steps of the Statehouse; Make Faces in Naked Fear
As Posses Cry out in Hatred; Coarse Voices are Shedding Tears
Clusterplay Nation; Ever Consuming the Earth; Taking More than its Share
Manipulate the Markets; Degrade Human Life; Competition doesn’t Care

Where are the Souls of the Elders? Assembled in Militant Bands
See Rifles on Spiteful Shoulders; And Pistols in Hopeless Hands
Confused Consumers; Smothered and Shopping in Masks; Anxiously Making up the Rules
Conjuring Rumors; And Meaningless Tasks; Feeling taken for Fools

Tin Soldiers and Trump is staying; In Office and all Alone
No Voting and Trump’s Remaining; Perfecting his Words by Phone
Reporters must Watch their Tone; Or be like Dog and no Bone; Evicted from their White House Home
While Trump awaits his Clone; We need Someone to Atone; For the Sins of Trump Alone

Tin Soldiers and Trump is Saying; Get a Haircut and Make the Scene
Meanwhile Trump’s got us Praying; For an End to this Quarantine
Tin Soldiers so all Alone; Tin Soldiers without a Bone
Tin Soldiers Remaining, Praying; Protecting Trump’s Perfect Phone

(c) Michael Monasky, April 2020



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1 comment

Tracy said...

I don't see the correlation between Kent State Massacre, the Militia movement, and armed protestors in Michigan. On one end, you have you have the government shooting people in a moment of high tension and stress. And the other end, you have a peaceful protest of armed citizens. And how you bring the Militia into the mix, makes no sense at all.

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