Friday, November 28, 2008
Grief And Discord Mark Jonestown's 30th Anniversary; Cult Leader's Son Claims His Father A "Victim" Being "Villainized"
Another Thanksgiving gone and there's little doubt about one thing:
For this group of people, their great American family event was forever shattered 30 years ago by an unspeakable horror.
Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, and sons, massacred by a madman in a distant jungle. Senseless and appalling. More than this -- what nearly all the religious, media, and political powers-that-be still refuse to admit to this day -- preventable.
For the Concerned Relatives and all the others, seeing Cult Ruler Jim Jones destroy their loved ones was unimaginable anguish. And only a little over a week before that Thanksgiving Day in 1978.
But many of them were in for a shock last week during the annual memorial service at the Jonestown mass grave in Oakland, California's Evergreen Cemetery.
The Rev. Jynona Norwood, a Los Angeles evangelist who lost her mother and 26 other family members, unveiled the first two black granite panels of what will be a 36 foot-long stone wall with the names of all the victims.
Actually, all except one: The man who ordered his thugs to slaughter more than 900 people, nearly one-third of them children and infants. "Jones was not a victim," said Norwood, "To me, that's like putting Hitler's name on a memorial to the Holocaust."
It's clear, however, that her sentiment is not shared by all the relatives and survivors, including Lela Howard, who lost an aunt in Jonestown and had contacted the Apologist Alert late last year. She has publicly questioned Norwood's accounting of memorial funds (See "Division and Controversy Roils Construction of Jonestown Memorial," January 4, 2008 post.)
But that's not all. Howard's rival group of survivors unveiled their own memorial plaque at the ceremony, bearing all the names of the dead, including a vicious sociopath named James Warren Jones. They've arranged to have the plaque displayed at San Francisco's African American Historical and Cultural Society.
Norwood said she intends to inscribe the names of the Temple assassins that murdered Congressman Leo Ryan, three journalists, a defector, and shot 11 others (including Ryan's aide, Jackie Speier, who now holds his Congressional seat) at the Port Kaituma Airstrip.
But not Jones. Not ever. "To put Jim Jones's name on that wall is an insult ... to all the dead," she said. "He was the most evil man who walked on this earth."
Not so, says the man that carries his name, who survived the bloodbath with his bothers, thanks to a basketball tournament in Guyana's capital city, Georgetown. Jim Jones, Jr. sides with the Howard faction. "The tragedy is we're villainizing Jim Jones," said the cult leader's adopted son. "Jim Jones was also a victim, of his own madness. We need to memorialize all the bodies, as a great loss."
"Villainizing" a mass murderer??
Now there's a thought. And while we're at it, just quit all this villainizing of some of the late reverend's famously sadistic and murderous colleagues.
Lovable John Wayne Gacy, Jr. would be a good start. Yeeesssss, it's true he had some issues with an overcharged libido, torture, and burying bodies under the house. But you see, the plain and simple fact is that Gacy was a victim. After all, would you enjoy the terrible ordeal of being a misunderstood clown?
Label him a "villain" -- and create more tragedy? Absolutely not. Besides, we gotta give "Pogo The Killer Clown" some credit for doing social work for the needy, entertaining all those children at neighborhood block parties. One more thing: he was Democrat, and an active one at that. When First Lady Rosalynn Carter came to Chicago, guess who had a photo op with her (like that other activist in San Francisco.)
And speaking of entertainers, here's a famous fellow who plays a mean guitar and even befriended a real Beach Boy in sun-baked Southern California. Yes, it's all true, Charles Milles Manson did have some rather helter skelter notions about the future (which seems to be a common thread with these c----, aahhmmm, "New Religious Movements".) But remember; he had a really bad childhood, got locked up a lot, and did a whole lot of drugs. He continues to be a wee bit overbearing and manipulative, yes. But, no, definitely not a villain, that Charlie. Victimhood granted.
Rounding out this tragic trio is perhaps the most original of all "victims," Milwaukee's Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer. Tragically, he suffered all manner of terrible vices at once: rape, torture, dismemberment, necrophilia, and cannibalism. A struggling taxidermist, as well. His biggest fear was reported to be rejection & abandonment. That sounds eerily a bit like that fellow from nearby Indiana, who liked "God" for a nickname.
So tread lightly with such troubled souls, victimized by their madness and acting out. Avoid "villainizing" them whenever possible.
Maybe, though, I just misinterpreted Mr. Jones, Jr.'s message. Or, it could very well be he's been spending a bit too much time with the wrong crowd. Here he is, hanging with a scowling Stanley Nelson (on left.) Lord (of illusions) Nelson is the proud producer/director of the infamously disreputable, "Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple." Besides winning the biggest trophy as the most accomplished cult apologist film in history, Stan took care to give Jones, Jr. a starring role! Not that he necessarily needed to, since his editing/revisionist witchcraft alone was spellbinding.
On the other hand, Nelson billowed with so much amazing "info" fed by those Cult Apologists Titans Becky Moore and Mac McGehee, that he simply couldn't resist chiming at every interview about all "the good that People's Temple did" and that "the old people were cared for..." and the "sense of family -- a sense of community."
Try, try, though, to find anything in Nelson's film that goes beyond a sugar glazing of, say, this cult's horrendous, sadistic abuse of children and adults alike, or the full measure of Jones's astonishing partnership with California officials (who again and again, ignored the evidence LONG before 1977), the fraud & extortion, or even his Marxist-Leninist fanaticism that is so blatantly clear.
Now hold on, just one moment. You think that just maybe.....perhaps.....that all this really might boil down to, hmmmmm -- possibly some curious political bend afflicting Mr. Nelson, and, yeeahhh, Ms. Moore, too??.....and, even a chance that hoard of Lotus Land power brokers has it too?
One quite cogent observation comes from author Dan Flynn, who though receiving an automatic caveat as an unabashed right-winger, I think is worth a listen. See, Flynn's particular outlook doesn't necessarily mean a permanent confinement to perpetually twisted arguments, any more than it does for some some quick & clever leftist, such as, say, a Noam Chomsky. What matters: Do the polemics measure up?
You be the judge.
"On November 17, 1978," writes Flynn, "Jim Jones was a hero to American leftists. On November 18, 1978, Jones orchestrated the killings of 918 people and strangely morphed in the eyes of American leftists into an evangelical Christian fanatic. An unfortunately well-worn narrative, playing out contemporaneously in Pol Pot's Cambodia, of socialist dreams ending in ghoulish nightmares, then, conveniently shifted to one about the dangers of organized religion.
"But as The Nation magazine reported at the time, 'The temple was as much a left-wing political crusade as a church. In the course of the 1970s, its social program grew steadily more disaffiliated from what Jim Jones came to regard as Fascist America and drifted rapidly toward outspoken Communist sympathies.' So much so that the last will and testament of the Peoples Temple, and its individual members who left notes, bequeathed millions of dollars in assets to the Soviet Union.
"As Jones expressed to a Soviet diplomat upon upon his visit to Jonestown the month before the smiling suicides took place, 'For many years, we have let our sympathies be quite publicly known, that the United States government was not our mother, but that the Soviet Union was our spiritual motherland.'
"Jim Jones was an evangelical communist who became a minister to infiltrate the church with the gospel according to Marx and Lenin. He was an atheist missionary bringing his message of socialist redemption to the Christian heathen. 'I decided, how can I demonstrate my Marxism?,' remembered Jones of his days in 1950s Indiana. 'The thought was, infiltrate the church.' So in the forms of Pentecostal ritual, Jones smuggled socialism into the minds of true believers -- who gradually became true believers of a different sort.
"Unless one counts his drug-induced bouts with self-messianism, Jones didn't believe in God. Get it -- a Peoples Temple. He shocked his parishioners, many of whom certainly did believe in God, by dramatically tossing the Bible onto the ground during a sermon. 'Nobody's going to come out of the sky!' an excited Jones had once informed his flock. 'There's no heaven up there! We'll have to have heaven down here!' Like so many efforts to usher in the millennium before it, Jones's Guyanese road to heaven on earth detoured to a hotter afterlife destination.
"The horrific scene in a Guyanese jungle clearing could have been avoided. Thousands of miles north, for years leading up to Jonestown, San Francisco officials and journalists had looked the other way while Jones acted as a law unto himself.
"So what if he abused children, sodomized a follower, tortured and held temple members at gun point, and defrauded the government and people of welfare and social security checks? He believes in socialism and so do we. That was the ends-justifies-the-means attitude that enabled Jim Jones to commit criminal acts in San Francisco with impunity. The people who should have stopped him instead encouraged him.
"....By virtue of producing rent-free rent-a-rallies for liberal politicians and causes, Jim Jones engendered enormous amounts of good will from Democratic politicians and activists. They allowed their political ambitions to derail their governing responsibilities. Frisco pols like Harvey Milk never seemed to care how Jones could, at the snap of his fingers, direct hundreds of people to stack a public meeting or volunteer for a campaign.
"City Councilman Milk just knew that he benefited from that control, and therefore never bothered to do anything to inhibit the dangerous cult operating in his city. Instead, he actively aided and abetted a homicidal maniac. It wasn't just local hacks Jones commanded respect from. He held court with future First Lady Rosalyn Carter, vice presidential candidate Walter Mondale, and California Governor Jerry Brown.
"A man who killed more African Americans than the Ku Klux Klan was awarded a local Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award and won the plaudits of California lieutenant governor Mervyn Dymally, state assemblyman Willie Brown, radical academic Angela Davis, preacher/politician Jesse Jackson, Black Panther leader Huey Newton, and other African American activists.
"From Newton, whom Jones had visited in Cuban exile in 1977, Jones got his lawyer and received support, such as a phone-to-megaphone address to Jonestown during a 'white night' dry run of mass suicide. This was appropriate, as it was from Newton whom Jones appropriated the phrase 'revolutionary suicide' -- the title of a 1973 Newton book -- that he used as a moniker for the murder-suicides of more than 900 people on November 18, 1978.
"'We didn't commit suicide,' Jones announced during the administering of cyanide-laced Flavoraid to his flock, 'we committed an act of revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of an inhumane world.' Newton's comically idiotic slogan boomeranged on him, as several of his relatives perished in the Kool-Aid carnage.
"It's worth remembering that before the people of Peoples Temple drank Jim Jones's Kool-Aid, the leftist political establishment of San Francisco gulped it down.
"And without the latter, the former would have never happened."
Final note (excerpt from "Madman In Our Midst"):
"Gray skies dripped sadness and sorrow over San Francisco yesterday", wrote Herb Caen, "Headlines told of tragedy and madness in steaming jungles...how to judge the insanity surrounding the end of Rev. Jim Jones...Who would have expected THIS?"
Willie Brown stated "he has not regrets" over his past association with Jones and the People's Temple. Brown also mentioned he would not try to dissociate himself like so many other politicians were. "They all like to say, 'Forgive me, I was wrong', but that's bulls--t. It doesn't mean a thing now, it just isn't relevant."
Doesn't psychiatry have a word for that, Mr. Mayor?