By Dave O'Brien
Record-Courier staff writer
Upon his introduction to a packed and excited Kiva audience at Kent State University Thursday, author and peace activist Tom Hayden mused about how his Web site, www.tomhayden.com, was mentioned during his introduction.
"They used to call me "Tom Hayden-dot-communist," he joked.
Speaking briefly about the effect the May 4, 1970 shootings had on him as a student and activist, Hayden " co-founder of the 1960s protest movement Students for a Democratic Society and later 18-year member of the California legislature " said the lessons of the 1960s anti-Vietnam War movement can be applied to today's Iraq War protests.
Hayden said he felt "something in the air not of our making" on May 1, 1970 as he and 25,000 others protested Vietnam and the incarceration of Black Panther Bobby Seale on the Yale University green in New Haven, Conn.
Surrounded by armed troops and thousands of like-minded people, Hayden said he became "the voice of a national student strike ... a genuinely spontaneous, fervent uprising from below of the privileged and protected sectors of our many campuses."
The deaths of four students at KSU and two more at Jackson State University in Mississippi in May 1970 were "signs, extreme examples of the ultimate stage of this conflict between social movements," governments and other "Machiavellian" institutions.
"What might have been visited on Yale was visited on Kent State three days later," Hayden said, admitting to a kind of complicated "survivor's guilt" for having lived through that time.
Still, as the protesters found their complaints redressed and succeeded at obtaining rights for all Americans, "as we succeeded we were plunged into a new identity crisis."
"Look at me. Do I look like a dangerous fellow?" he asked, later adding: "If you think I'm dwelling in the past, look at the White House ... President Bush and the White House are stumbling into a "Watergate moment' all their own."
Students of the 1960s "had to revolt on behalf of a more-relevant education," Hayden said. But with African-American, Latino, women's and lesbian and gay studies classes now offered on campuses across the nation and increased rights for all Americans, "what was on the outside has blended in."
Hayden said society needs to remember the history and lessons of the 1960s and the Vietnam War era in order to survive the Iraq War and the War on Terror.
"Whenever self-induced or the controlled amnesia of the military-industrial-entertainment complex strangles the memory, it threatens democracy and peace," he said. "To expect the media to tell our story is going too far. We have to tell our story."
Hayden's keynote speech capped off the eighth-annual Symposium on Democracy, two days of panels and lectures on the importance of democracy in the world, events sponsored by the university.