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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Dont Drink The Kool-Aid



How does one man drive over 900 people to mass suicide? Where does he obtain such clout?


In the 1970’s, a man by the name of Jim Jones brought the Peoples Temple to San Francisco. The Peoples Temple wasn’t so much a religious organization as it was a microcosm of socialist society that gave people a support base and sense of family. Jones established himself as a political liaison for the people and amassed a large following among the people of San Francisco. Simultaneously, he worked to build relationships with elected officials from the municipal level to the federal, many of whom used the Temple as a soapbox.
Quickly gaining a large following, he staged spurious faith healings that included, but were not limited to, "healing" the paralyzed. People clung to the Temple and were swindled out of incredible amounts of money. Jones had already created a brilliant cult system, and he wanted to take it further. His ultimate goal was to build his own utopian society, The Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, in the South American country of Guyana. He lured many of the members into his agriculturally-centered community that employed the values of the Peoples Temple, implementing Socialist systems and encouraging people to leave behind their blood relatives and embrace their new “family” within the Temple. Many people complied and moved to Jonestown, as it was informally called. Initially, people were very happy there; Jones had convinced them of the security and happiness that a life in Jonestown provided. People lived in harmony, farming their piece of South American land by day and worshipping in community by night. This once charming and endearing man, however, used his power to convert the friendly socialist society into a totalitarian dictatorship, and loyalty was fading fast. Some had decided that they were ready to leave this synthetic society, but Jones wouldn’t oblige. Following up on claims of imprisonment and detainment on Guyana, San Francisco congressman Leo Ryan planned a trip out to Jonestown, accompanied by his aide Jackie Speier. Afraid of the repercussions they would face for “defecting,” or leaving the cult, many families pleaded with Ryan in secret, one man handed a note to a cameraman, asking to be removed from the compound. Ryan met with various officials and arranged to evacuate those wishing to leave the establishment. Jones would not allow it. As the plane carrying the defectors was taxiing down the runway, one of the men inside the plane (who was planted by Jones) shot up the plane, injuring many, including Jackie Speier, and fatally wounding Congressman Ryan. He was the first (and only) congressman to die in the line of duty.
With his society literally unraveling at his own hand, Jones prepared to leave his final mark of repugnant terror on the world. Jones had practiced mass suicide with his congregation, claiming that it was nothing but a step over into another plane.
The children drank the Flavor Aid first, followed by their parents. As the cyanide destroyed their bodies, families laid down to die. Photographs taken in the aftermath portray these former human beings as empty shells of wasted promise and un actualized potential. Jones qualified the mass suicide as the ultimate act of dignified transcendence, and was found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

-Kelsey Laubscher

2 Comments:

Blogger Editorial Committee said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

February 21, 2011 at 12:43 AM  
Blogger Editorial Committee said...

Hearing about the Peoples Temple is shocking and interesting that one person can move 900 people to kill themselves. I think it is also interesting to fully understand the the phrase "Don't Drink The Kool-Aid". Often we hear things and we do not understand exactly what they mean or stand for and this was one of those cases. It truly does make you think that you need to be cautious when a specific individual or group is trying to sway you in a way that is drastic and seemingly unhealthy.
By:Alyssa Silva

February 21, 2011 at 12:44 AM  

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