Monday, September 15, 2014

Not Just Another Day in May 1970

American history is rich with tales untold and those too-often told, but in a manner that is sometimes either unfaithful to the events or a sickening attempt to fatten the bottom line. Which was it when Urban Outfitters recently offered a replica of a blood-stained Kent State sweatshirt for sale at $130, a garment that is now being offered on eBay for $550? Is this a reminder of our recent, bloody past or someone’s worse-than-crass attempt at “humor” in the service of corporate profit? Two words suffice; disgusting and shameful.

Perhaps the designer was so poorly educated that he/she didn’t fully appreciated what happened that May day in 1970 when four college students, exercising their right to assemble and protest, were gunned down by the local National Guard unit. Bleeding and dying on the college quad, one became the subject of an iconic photo that stands today as a symbol of Presidential anarchy.

The President in question, one Richard M. Nixon, a man who was almost disbarred for attempting to influence a juror when he was first admitted to the bar, deemed the students dirty hippies. Did hippies attend college? I thought they had “turned on, tuned in and dropped out” as Timothy Leary suggested was the appropriate reaction to political fascism in the form of Nixon.

I suppose you could say it was a “tribute” of sorts to those dead students, but I can’t buy that. It was in a distorted attempt at innovative design if you were not totally in touch with reality, I suppose. Similar to the recent shirt offered by yet another hip and edgy designer. The shirt, for those who missed it, was similar to the uniforms worn by the captives in the concentration camps in Europe during World War II. Oh, so trendy and creative, why would anyone protest? Lord knows except for the fact that more than six million people died while wearing those garments.

Gee, why not put out a Matthew Shepard t-shirt with, perhaps, a really gory, realistic portrayal of him being crucified on that Wyoming fence? Wouldn’t that be too cool for words? Oh, yeah, they could sell it everywhere. Quick, what color scheme should we pick?

Or maybe a Harvey Milk shirt riddled with bullet holes? We could make a really nice jig with nails to simulate the bullets. Or, was he shot in the head? If he were shot in the head, it would ruin the whole design. Must look that one up on Google. Thank God for Google, it lets us keep all that history stuff available and we don’t have to open even one book. Don’t you love it?

Perhaps a clothing line called “Strange Fruit” with lots of really wonderful portrayals of African-American men hanging from trees? Wow, that would be great. You could position a few of them on one tree sort of like Christmas ornaments. Don’t you just love it?

Maybe we might even go a bit more retro and dream up something with a civil rights theme? There’s that wonderful trio (or was it four) of little girls in the Birmingham church explosion, Mrs. Liuzzo who was helping the Freedom Riders or even Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner. So much to choose from during that era that you really have a hard time choosing.

Ask yourself who was sitting on their brains the day they decided that a Kent State sweatshirt was a good idea? How many people with an absence of good sense and decency were in the room when the mock-ups were passed around? Did not one voice speak out in protest?

The shirt is no longer being offered, but oh how the melody lingers on for Urban Outfitters. How will you redeem yourselves, guys?

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