As much as anything, I was saddened when this came across my desk yesterday. In what is at best a complete obliviousness and at worst a heinous act of completely calloused marketing, Urban Outfitters put up for sale a supposedly vintage, one of a kind, apparently blood-splattered sweatshirt bearing the Kent State logo. They have since removed the item and apparently apologized, but to me it's pretty much an apology in name only: Instead of owning their behavior, what they have actually said is more along the lines of "Oops, sorry, we didn't mean it like that."
It's hard to see how Urban Outfitters could be so oblivious as to how people would react to this. I very clearly remember that day in 1970, and how I felt: Like most people I was shocked and deeply saddened, and I couldn't help but think of the families of the four kids who lost their lives and the others who were wounded. I say I was shocked, but as you all doubtless remember this was a turbulent time for this country. There had been something in the air since the Chicago riots at the Democratic Convention a couple of years before, something like a storm building up with the Kent State tragedy the lightning bolt that finally struck.
Which is why I am so amazed that Urban Outfitters could be this ignorant or this calloused, and again amazed and saddened that their response was essentially "you took it the wrong way." (The full text of their apology, which apparently was only in a Tweet on Twitter, is here.)
Kudos goes to Kent State in this whole affair, who issued a statement about the sweatshirt that is both poignant and restrained, and I join with them in calling on companies and individuals to gain some perspective on what happened those 40+ years ago, and to apply that perspective going forward.
As Baby Boomers, we have a perspective that outdistances those who have come after us, and a wisdom that has sometimes been very dearly earned. Let's use both of those things, my friends.