“Ohio” by Neil Young: The Greatest Protest Song

Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming

We’re finally on our own

This Summer I hear the drumming

Four dead in Ohio

This is the introduction and hook of Ohio by legendary musician Neil Young. It was released a month after the Kent State massacre, an event in which the Ohio National Gaurd opened fire on a group of anti-war protestors. It tragically killed 4 of the protestors, paralyzed one, and wounded 8 others (History Channel, 2021). The event cause mass outrage and there were many responses, the greatest was from Neil Young. 

Young starts the song by referencing Tin soldiers and Nixon, the men who carried out and allow the attack. But there’s more to the ‘Tin soldiers”, firstly Young is calling them out for being pawns to their masters, following orders without any empathy. But he’s also calling out the fact that many in the national guard were young, inexperienced, fake soldiers parading as real ones. Next Neil explains the feeling of his generation, on their own, the older generation and the government have abandoned them. They spend their summers hearing the drumming of marches, and the drumming of guns. Which eventually culminated in four dead in Ohio. This leads into the verse,

Gotta get down to it

Soldiers are cutting us down

Should have been done long ago

What if you knew her

And found her dead on the ground

How can you run when you know?

This of course describes the event more, but it also pleads for empathy. Neil wants the soldiers and those in charge of the war in Vietnam to imagine if they knew one of the victims. He accuses them of cowardice, running away from something that should have never occurred. He also informers them of the protestors’ message, that the war in Vietnam should have been done long ago. 

The bridge of the song is a repetitive chant of “na na na na na na na”, which allowed the song to easily sang at protests. The recording of the song itself uses multiple voices for this portion of the song. The ending is also repetitive, with Young sounding more and more desperate as he echos out

Four dead in Ohio

-Parker K.

Bibliography:

History Channel Article https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/national-guard-kills-four-at-kent-state

On the Duty of Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau

Written in the late 1800s, Henry David Thoreau’s essays tell of civil resistance in society. He believed that many laws were bound to be broken and the people had the right to protest. In his essays, he says that human laws overcome government laws.

As a transcendentalist writer, Thoreau believed that humans could live beyond reality and could not be limited by temporary worldly objects. He shuns the idea of materialism and embraces the power of nature. Thus, people must take advantage of their individual power given by nature and represent their opinions.

Surprisingly, the essays of Civil Disobedience still apply to society today. In the past, Thoreau created an act of civil disobedience by not paying his taxes in order to protest against slavery and the Mexican-American war.

Today, people around the world refuse to follow laws to stand for an issue they believe in. Similar to the nineteenth century, materialism has taken over many peoples’ minds and distracts them from politics, the environment, and other important things. The protests that happen in the twenty-first century go along with Thoreau’s words in his work. Just as Thoreau mentions, many protests and strikes need to create an act of civil disobedience to bring awareness to the matter at hand.

As written in the work, society cannot learn and fix their past mistakes without acts of civil resistance. Thoreau emphasizes how individuals must hold onto their personal beliefs and make a difference to advance their society. It is amazing to see how a series of essays from 200 years ago still accurately applies to our society today. This can also be a bit frightening as some negative aspects of governments around the world have not been changed.

-Zohal N.