Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Remembering the victims of Jim Jones

I haven't posted in a long time, because my computer's a piece of shit and I've been so depressed by my busy schedule and my pain in the ass coworkers, but I heard a couple weeks ago that it was the 30th anniversary of the mass suicide at Jonestown. Jonestown was the creation of cult leader Jim Jones, preying on the young and idealistic as disciples for his "church," the People's Temple. When the San Francisco press and city officials started sniffing around Jones' financial and other misdeeds, he moved his followers to Guyana to start a pseudo-utopian community he called Jonestown. After a congressman went to investigate the community, where he and his aides were shot and killed by Jones' loyal soldiers, Jones, his cancerous ego bruised, ordered his followers to drink tainted Kool-Aid. Almost one thousand died that day, following the orders of a cold, calculating egomaniac. That's the saddest part about the whole tragedy. Jim Jones preferred to kill his loyal followers than be found out by the authorities. He ended the slaughter by shooting himself, like so many madmen before him.
As one former People's Temple member said in a documentary about Jonestown, "No one purposely joins a cult." It's a common misconception that the victims of cults somehow deserved it for being stupid enough to join in the first place. But the members of the People's Temple were like anyone else, searching for a belief system and a place to belong. Unfortunately, in their case, they were lured in by the manipulations of a man who didn't care about them or their well-being, only the power he could wield over them. Cults can overtake anyone. We've all had our moments of self-doubt and desperation. Manipulative cult leaders sniff these things out like bloodhounds, and then move in for the kill. Witnesses who miraculously escaped the mass poisoning at Jonestown relate stories of parents forcing the Kool-Aid down their children's throats. These were otherwise decent human beings, under the dangerous spell of a man they thought cared about their best interest, but was only interested in preserving his sense of power. He killed himself after his followers, most likely not out of remorse, but because his ego was so swollen that he saw his followers as extensions of himself, and had to die with him. This dark moment in our history has a valuable lesson in it: blind faith is not the virtue religious types want us to believe it is. It could kill us.
I haven't posted since October, and I had an amazing Halloween. I was a zombie in Todd's haunted house, jumping out of the shadows and screaming at passersby. Then at the parties, Anthony and I were Bonnie and Clyde. In the second week of November, Anthony and I celebrated our first anniversary. One year is a huge record in my very disappointing history of relationships, and at least I have one good thing in my life right now. And he's in Kansas City for Thanksgiving, while I'm stuck here with my family waiting for him to come back on Sunday.