Earlier this week we exchanged a number of comments about the Kent State University shootings. 1970. Not nearly so remembered, but a part of my 1970, the bombing of Rodin’s statute “The Thinker” at the Cleveland Museum of Art. The bombing was in March, KSU just two months later, in May. I worked across the street, at the Freiberger Library.
The Weathermen, Students for a Democratic Society, Black Panthers, SNCC, the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee, all seemed a level above we intersection blockers who protested. Members of these organizations and more could be found in our student union, back in their infancy, posting their own meeting notices, and probably drawing away the more radical and angry among us.
Anti-war protests in 1970 were fueled by Nixon’s escalation of the war and expansion into Cambodia. The anger of the late seventies was more laser focused on injustice at home; we’d heard “plastics” as well as “Mrs. Robinson,” back in the sixties, and activists were slipping off into new corporate jobs. The war in Vietnam lingered; America moved on, buying homes and having babies.
Weathermen always seemed the most likely to me to have put the bomb at the Thinker’s base. Or anyone. The Weathermen always seemed very small to me, and looking them up just a bit ago, they were. The FBI didn’t think so, but it was 1970.
The Museum remounted the statue without repairs. A brilliant move that also preserved the artistic integrity of the work. Those of us who had the statue both ways appreciate its representation of the frailty of the social contract.
The Cleveland Museum of Art is mounting a new exhibition of work of Rodin, and in conjunction with that announced they had been contacted by someone naming a suspect in the bombing. The information cannot be corroborated, and remains hearsay. And, the “suspect” has been dead forty years.
The current nature and number of protests indicate how little has been accomplished. Minds must meet; it is the only solution. How long must it take.
''The Thinker'' by Auguste Rodin was photographed March 31, 1970, by Plain Dealer photographer Dudley Brumbach, days after a bomb blew out its base. It was a gift to the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1917 by Clevelander Ralph King. PLAIN DEALER HISTORICAL PHOTOGRAPHIC COLLECTION