Flowers Are Better Than Bullets.

On May 4, 1970, four unarmed Kent State students were shot and killed by National Guardsmen during a Vietnam war protest. One of them was Allison Krause. She was my friend Laurel's sister.

Laurel is conducting interviews with participants and witnesses to the Kent State tragedy as part of the Kent State Truth Tribunal. These interviews are being livestreamed throughout the day today and tomorrow on Michael Moore’s website.

The Kent State shootings were a flashpoint in American history. Many segments of the population were terrified of the growing youth movement because of the rapid changes that this movement heralded on race relations, women’s rights, and national security. In light of the Kennedy assassinations, as well as the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., even national leaders succumbed to the irrational notion that America’s young people were on the verge of a revolution aimed at shredding the fabric of American democracy. (Sound familiar?) This fear exploded at Kent State when a group of National Guardsmen - who were not much older than the teenage protesters - opened fire on the crowd of college students, killing four and wounding nine.

When the iconic photos of teenagers sobbing over the bodies of their dead classmates reached the American public, most of the country came to realize that the national response to the youth movement had lost all sense of proportion. Allison’s death in particular inspired plays, books, films, poetry, and some very emotionally-charged music. This song by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young is probably the most famous:

The day before Allison died, she had a conversation with one of the National Guardsman who had been sent to her campus to keep order. Noting the lilac blossom someone had placed in the barrel of his rifle, she said to him, “Flowers are better than bullets.”


  1. Nice piece. I hope Laurel can garner more support for what she is doing.

  2. Remember Paul Harvey and his "Rest of the Story" radio segment?
    There's always two sides to every story.
    The students were protesting the "Cambodian Invasion" that day.

    Here's a link to something I wrote about the Kent State shootings. It's from a perspective most people aren't aware of, or if they are, they don't seem to write or talk about it much.

    In some ways, I'm a unique old hippie. Been there and done that, and always try to see the whole valley.


  3. Dave, you are a hero. Thank you for sharing this, and thank you for your sacrifice.

    In a brief blog post, of course, it's difficult to delve into all of the intense complexities of an issue, which is why comments and links which share other perspectives in more depth help to enrich the whole blogging experience.

    I can't imagine what you must have gone through, and what you must still suffer sometimes. You guys over in Vietnam were just doing your best, and the fact that you happened to wind up in the middle of an American tragedy doesn't negate that in my book, so for what it's worth, thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Every time I teach in a college classroom, I look at those empty seats and think of the boys and girls over in Iraq and Afghanistan who should be sitting there, bored out of their skulls with my meandering lecture, wishing to god that I didn't have such a strict "anti-tweet" rule...

    But then I also think of Allison. At trial, one of the attorneys defending the National Guard did so by pointing out that gravel was found in Allison's pockets (the implication being that she was throwing rocks at the Guardsmen). In anguish, her father said, "Then why didn't they throw gravel at her?"

    It's a tragedy. It's a tragedy for you. It's a tragedy for Allison. It's a tragedy for your friend and all of the boys and girls who died with him. And it's a tragedy that America doesn't seem to have learned anything from all of this tragedy.