As a 52-year-old person who’s been a fan of Star Wars fan since I was in single digits and the first movie came out (I was 6 when it came out, 7 when I saw it), and also as someone who grew up in northeast Ohio and graduated from Kent State, I never know what to post on May 4, so I usually don’t post anything.
I was born a few months after the National Guard did at Kent State what then-Governor Rhodes had basically sent them there to do, and I probably found out about it around the same time Star Wars was coming out later that decade.
When I was in school at Kent, the school went out of its way to never call itself “Kent State” – it was, by policy, only to be referred to by staff or representatives as Kent State University or simply Kent, to avoid association with its past.
I watched the TV movie dramatization (it’s not great!) with a group from the honors college, and professor Jerry Lewis (not that one!), who was in the crowd that day, watched it with us and took questions afterward.
I was a student when the university built the first prominent memorial, the ‘slabs’ behind Taylor Hall. As a TV major, I had lots of classes in that building, and passed the memorial and the statue with the bullet hole almost daily for a few years. I got to meet Dean Kahler, a student in 1970 who had been paralyzed from the waist down since that day, when he came to speak to one of my classes.
I was a student during the 20th anniversary. I was in the crowd when then-Governor Celeste formally apologized to the victims and the families – the first time, I believe, any Ohio governor did that. It was cold, windy and rainy that day, which somehow felt appropriate. I have an audio cassette of his entire speech. I was a graduate by the time of the 25th anniversary, but happened to be in town that weekend too.
All of this happened during the late 80s and early 90s, when Star Wars was mostly… dormant. The original movies were long gone, as were the Droids and Ewoks TV series; the Kenner toy lines had ended; and the Shadows of the Empire toy relaunch, “Special editions” of the original trilogy, and prequel trilogy were all still more than half a decade away. My childhood toy collection was safely stored in my parents’ basement. (In multiple boxes.)
By the time the 35th anniversary of the events everyone just calls “Kent State” rolled around in 2005, the school had gone back to embracing its history and proudly calling itself Kent State again. This was especially noticeable when its men’s basketball team advanced, somewhat improbably, all the way to the Elite 8 in the 2003 NCAA tournament (EDIT: 2002, sorry). I was watching proudly from Tulsa. And Star Wars had had its own resurgence by then, with the arrival of everything I listed a paragraph ago, even if the prequel trilogy itself was maybe the least great of all those things. But hey, the Tartakovsky Clone Wars was great!
So, Star Wars day. Kent State day. Not exactly similar things to be remembering on this day. I don’t think there’s a real tight connection to be made between the two that doesn’t cheapen both, which is why I usually let both go unmentioned on my socials this day every year.
But if there’s one little thing I can maybe take from both, one thing that MAYBE connects the threads just a bit?
It’s a call to resist. To rebel against the forces of oppression.
Fight the power.
Defeat the fascists.
May the 4th be with all of us.