‘Forgive? Maybe. Forget? Never.’ [PHIL-OSOPHY]
As someone who is observant of conservative speakers regularly shut down on college campuses, I'm incredulous over the decision to pay left-winger Jane Fonda $83,000 to speak at Kent State University to mark the anniversary of the May 4, 1970, fatal Vietnam War protest.
For those too young to remember, the Kent State shootings occurred on campus when 28 Ohio National Guardsmen, in the throws of thousands of dissenting students, opened fire. The actual trigger point is still clouded in confusion as protesters were hurling rocks at the soldiers, and disputed reports of sniper fire on the servicemen caused 28 guardsmen to fire off over 65 rounds, some into the air and some into the protesters. As the smoke lifted, four young people were shot dead, eight were wounded and one was permanently paralyzed.
This moment gave rise to the great divide between the conservative silent majority and the protesting objectors, a cause of antagonism that, politically, still has this country split.
The counter-movement had a lot of prominent activists, like Jane Fonda, who many of our veterans still call "Hanoi Jane" thanks to her anti-American radio broadcasts that shamed our troops. She posed on a North Vietnamese gun used to shoot down our own aircraft, and called our POWs hypocrites and liars, referring to their torture as "understandable." I believe her actions declared profound American sabotage and changing allegiances.
Since then, Fonda has apologized for the "Hanoi Jane" photo and said that her actions were in protest of the U.S. government and not against soldiers, but good luck selling that to families who lost loved ones and veterans who returned by getting spat upon by the public. At one of her appearances, a group of Vietnam vets held signs that read, "Forgive? Maybe. Forget? Never."
When it comes to free speech, I consider any kind of censoring anarchistic, but I did a double-take with the decision to have Fonda speak about the tragedy. I think the fact that Kent State University is shelling out $83,000 for someone as polarizing as "Hanoi Jane" to honor and remember the tragedy is a contradiction in terms.
Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.