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William C. Altreuter
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Monday, September 15, 2014

Urban Outfitters is selling Kent State sweatshirts with fake bullet holes and bloodstains. Obviously this is appalling, but you know what? As far as I am able to tell, Neil Young and his harmony buddies kept the money from "Ohio" and nobody accused them of crass commercialism. I've always been kind of shocked that the university continued operating under that name-- call it re-branding or call it commemoration, some profound acknowledgement seems in order. Kent doesn't conceal its history on its website and apparently commemorates it with scholarships and memorials. Good for them, I guess, but I could no more wear a Kent sweatshirt than I could a Confederate uniform. Here in WNY there are a surprising number of people who are Ohio-oriented rather than New York-centric, and quite a few of those people end up going to Kent. I cannot imagine what that would be like, but the massacre was a long time ago, and to high school students today it probably seems as remote as the Civil War. 44 years is a long time: we're six or seven wars on since then. The other day a friend posted this photo
of a spent tear gas canister on her Facebook page: it is from the Special Collections Library at UB, and even though the entire architecture of UB is a kind of commemoration of the anti-war riots at Buffalo, essentially none of the students there are aware of that history. It was about ten years before my time-- I wasn't quite in high school back then, but I knew about Kent, of course, and about UB, and Columbia, and the rest of it as well. It was happening all around us, and it seemed like a big thing. Now, apparently, all of it is recalled, if it is recalled at all, ironically, with a Jimi Hendrix soundtrack. I harbor no nostalgia for the Sixties, but I like to think that I likewise have no illusions about that time either.

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