Friday, November 19, 2010
New Jonestown Memorial: Honoring The Madman And His Assassins Along Side The Men, Women, And Children They Murdered
Take a good long look at their faces.
Today brother and sister Jewel (L) and Frankie Fountain (R) would have been 36 and 37 years old, probably with kids of their own. But Jim Jones and his hand-picked killers-- Larry Schacht, Annie & Carolyn Moore, Jim McElvane, and the other thugs in the Peoples Temple inner circle--had other plans for them.
On November 18, 1978, four year-old Jewel and five year-old Frankie didn't stand a chance. No more than the rest of the 900 people in that pavilion ringed by the cult's gunmen. So, as today's flippant but popular saying goes, Jewel and Frankie "drank the Kool Aid."
Maybe they forced down their throats through a cup or syringe, who knows. The vast majority of the others, however, had the deadly cyanide injected into their upper backs, as a forensic exam revealed.
Not a mass suicide, as usually reported, but mass murder. On a scale unspeakable, in a scene simply unbelievable. The pictures of the massacre still shock the world. It was perhaps the most overpowering message ever delivered about the lethal danger of cults, which kill a person's spirit, and sometimes the body as well.
Yesterday survivors and relatives met again on the grim anniversary at the cemetery with the mass grave containing the bodies of nearly half the murder victims. But this time the atmosphere was marred by bitterness and division, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported:
It seems the grief and pain of Jonestown never fades. On Thursday, it erupted anew on a tranquil East Oakland hillside.
At the 32nd annual Jonestown memorial, held at an Evergreen Cemetery mass grave for Peoples Temple victims, a schism among mourners led to competing ceremonies - one led by a woman who lost 27 family members in the mass suicide in Guyana, the other by Jim Jones Jr.
The first ceremony was hosted by Jynona Norwood of San Francisco, who has organized what she calls the "official" Jonestown memorial for more than three decades. Hers is a heartbreaking ceremony focusing on lessons learned, guidance from God, and the dangers of following charismatic leaders like Jim Jones.
The second ceremony, held four hours later at the same site, was organized by Jones Jr., son of the infamous Peoples Temple leader who ordered the suicides of 909 of his followers, plus the killings of Rep. Leo Ryan of San Mateo and a news crew, in 1978. Jones Jr.'s ceremony was more of a family reunion. People hugged, took snapshots, caught up on each other's lives and reminisced. There were no sermons, no music, no speeches. Jones Sr. was hardly mentioned at all.
Both ceremonies were attended by 30 to 40 family members of Jonestown victims.
Norwood was insulted by the "outrageous" second ceremony.
"It's like spitting on the souls of those who've died," she said. "It's an insult."
Jones, now a medical equipment salesman in San Francisco, didn't see it that way: "After 32 years, do I need any more sermons? Do I need to learn the lesson again? Let's not talk about what happened anymore...."
Allowing two ceremonies was an easy decision for the cemetery's staff. In recent years, tensions have been increasing among mourners, and in some cases people had lost their tempers, cemetery director Ron Haulman said.
"We don't want anyone to come here to mourn and pay their respects and not feel safe," he said. "We want to be courteous to everyone."
In another rift among survivors, Jones Jr.'s group plans to install four granite plaques at the grave next year. The plaques will be engraved with the names of all 918 victims, including Jones Sr.
Norwood's group also undertook a memorial plaque project. But it was engraved with only 917 names - everyone but Jones Sr.
Norwood's plaque project is temporarily stalled because it is so large and heavy that it would have toppled on the cemetery hillside.
So Jones Jr.'s plaque appears headed for the memorial site. The $15,000 project has been financed by an anonymous donor who will be repaid over time with donations, said Fielding McGehee, head of the Jonestown Institute in San Diego, an archive of the church's history.
After 32 years, it's time for the new plaque - that includes Jones - and a new memorial ceremony that omits Jones, McGehee said.
"Pretty much everyone who was in the Peoples Temple is over Jim Jones," he said. "They've forgiven him or gotten past their anger. It's time we recognize that."
Mac McGehee and wife Becky Moore, who runs that colossal cult apologist clearing house, insist on staying unlearned in the lessons of history along with their cronies in the Jim Jones, Jr. camp. They not only want to put a sheen on the "good works" of the Guyana gulag but also it seems will now be able to officially memorialize psychotic mass killer Jim Jones.
Mind-blowing. Put this monster's name in the same space as all his victims? For that matter, why should Temple assassins like Carolyn Moore, who dragged little six year old John Stoen up to Jones's cabin on the fateful day and murdered him, be memorialized? Or the gunmen that made the massacre possible?
Not one of them deserves to be honored, least of the Monster Jones. It's a true disgrace, no less than having SS guards' names placed on a Holocaust memorial, right next to the names of those they savagely murdered. But McGehee & Co. are getting away with it.
It is the victims that we honor, not the victimizers. A lesson that was lost on perhaps the saddest Jonestown anniversary to date.