Monday, November 20, 2006


B and I just came back from a screening of Jonestown: The Life and Death of the Peoples Temple. When the mass “suicide” in Guyana occurred in 1978, all I really picked up on was that about a thousand members of some weird cult willingly drank some poisoned Kool-Aid after their leader told them to. That’s more or less it, but there was so much more to it.

I’m still processing the documentary, but one rather chilling thing I didn't know was that Jim Jones gained a considerable amount of political clout in the mid-70s. He’d gather together all of his followers and have them show up in loud and enthusiastic support of various liberal political candidates. He undoubtedly helped San Francisco mayor George Moscone win office, and Moscone later appointed Jones to the city’s housing commission. And when Rosalynn Carter was in San Francisco, she set up a private meeting with Jones. So scary to think people in high places weren’t, apparently, catching on to the fact that the man was unhinged and dangerous.

What a tragic waste of life—of people who were, essentially, idealists. It seems many of them truly believed that they were part of a little utopia where they were all be one big happy interracial family. Some did realize that Jones was a lunatic and fled, but many them continued to believe what they wanted to believe, even as Jones became increasingly paranoid and demanding.

One final comment. In looking for a review of the documentary that I could link to, I found a Newsweek article in which Jones is described as “kooky” in one of the captions. What? Jerry Lewis is kooky; Jim Jones was an unquestionably insane murderous megalomaniac. I can’t believe that Newsweek’s editors allowed the writer to softpedal Jones’s character like that. Also, the same caption leads off with “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid,” an expression that always makes me cringe. I just don’t think it’s right to make light of such a tragedy.

Today’s Random NaBloPoMo blog: jazzgeek!


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