The other night I watched the new documentary on Jim Jones and the Guyana Massacre. This piqued my interest to learn more. Must say that when the event actually occurred back in 1978, I was living in Boston and having a good time and thus paid little attention to it. My impression back then was pretty much my impression now; rather, was my impression until I started digging deeper.
I have never been one to accept the standard version of anything. I have learned in my overly long life that when a major event occurs, many forces (federal government, the media, etc.) are brought to bear to shape something to their liking. In a word, I had formerly thought of Jim Jones (above) as just another cultish-type leader whose megalomania and power over his followers drove 900 of them to commit suicide. Bad as that already is, it is only a tithe of the story.
I have listened to some of the tapes and read the transcripts of the People's Temple gatherings while in Jonestown, Guyana. And I am horrified. There is a bloodthirsty paranoia that colors everything. On one tape, we hear the congregation come forward one at a time and describe in graphic detail what they would like to do to their parents and former friends back in the "vomit" called America; the objects of their hatred are the people who either fled Jonestown and the cult or who were trying to get their loved ones out. With Jim Jones sitting on his throne (a lawn chair) and encouraging the throng, even little children come forward and talk about hanging relatives "by their balls" and roasting them alive. They speak not just of vengeance and death to those who oppose them, but sadistic torture. The Reverend Jones just giggles. And such vile language. I won't repeat what is on the tapes here, but there was no thought or word too graphic. In "fairness" to this zoo, Jonestown had long since ceased being even a nominal religious organization. With the sinister Reverend Jones ruling with an iron fist, vicious, paranoid Marxism was the guiding faith of all. The sad fact is: Left to their own, I think virtually everyone would have left Jonestown. But such was his power and terrible menace, that Jones turned this jungle clearing into a private concentration camp.
Mind alteration? Brainwashing? You bet, and plenty more. Fascinating subject. http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/
My grown son, Clip (below, age 4 or 5, in Camden, Maine), was filmed for the local PBS and will have his movie debut soon. It was part of a segment on farming, I believe, and Clip was shot while up in a tractor bailing hay. He said that a couple of his buds were drinking beer and ragging on him as the cameras were rolling. Another big thing that came to the little crossroads known as Dover, Kansas, (where I once lived and where Clip still does) was the National Pie Contest. The old gal (a Mrs. Grubb, if one can believe that) who bakes in the Dover Cafe won and the cameras were once more rolling on "Good Morning America." That place has always been known for pie. Years ago I would take Clip in there when he was a little boy for a slice on whatever was on the menu. I believe a piece of pie was a buck twenty-five twenty years ago.
Just like the rotten economy beyond, my own personal economy is in the tank. There are some nice things that should happen eventually, but I am reminded of the frozen wanderer who dies in a drift within sight of his warm cabin--he's just as dead whether he's one mile or a million from home. Moral: One must tuff it out.
My good friend in Denver, Jeff Broome, has a new, affordable paperback coming out soon called Dog Soldier Justice. The story recounts the horrific treatment two white women captives suffered during the Indian Wars on the High Plains. Jeff is a meticulous researcher and fine writer and this book is groundbreaking.