Joseph Kelner, American hero

I should read New York Times obituaries more often. Over the weekend, thanks to my obsession with all things 1960s (OK, 1970, but same thing) related, I stumbled across this obit for a lawyer who sued the authorities on behalf of the victims of the deadly massacre of four students at Kent State. It seems that Joseph Kelner was quite a man -- he was 53 at the tiime of the Ohio shootings, but he was very moved by young people and their unrest over what was happening at that time.

The obituary concludes with an op-ed he wrote in the Times around the time of the Kent State incident:

“We, the older generation, have much to answer for,” he wrote. “We have allowed our country to decay and deteriorate. We were too permissive of our own government. We stood by passively while our elected officials inched us into the bottomless pit of Vietnam. While our land, water and air were polluted and fouled for decades by profit-hungry industry, we were reticent and compliant, each of us devoting our energies to the pursuit of happiness and material gain in the Horatio Alger tradition. The college kids simply cannot see us spending hundreds of billions on Vietnams and ABMs while our cities rot and people are hungry. They see our priorities aborted and our principles perverted to favor a military-industrial complex.

“So they protest.”

Beautiful words. Too bad no one was listening...because they could have been written today.

Blogger's note: I'm off toniight to speak at a journalism/book event in NYC -- see y'all tomorrow.