Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Drinking the Kool-aid

It seems that cults have long been with us. I recall when I was younger that Hare Krishnas were fairly prevalent. The chants at the airport by people with shaved-heads wearing long, flowing garments. Yet, the most infamous cult of all was Jim Jones and the Jonestown mission. In the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

It was also 30 years ago today that Jim Jones of the Peoples Temple, who had moved to Guyana with his flock, committed mass murder and suicide, massacring men, women and children. It was shocking when the details were revealed in the aftermath of the Jonestown tragedy. Almost 1000 people were killed. 30 years later, the legacy of Jonestown. See also, 30 YEARS AGO: The Jonestown Massacre.

As Rev. David Garrett said, along with events such as the assassination of Kennedy and King, it was one of those Events That Define a Generation. It was probably one of the worst single tragedies to befall this country in the last century before 9/11. However, you would hardly know:

But a largely-overlooked watershed event in the modern era is the tragedy in Jonestown, Guyana, that took place 30 years ago today, when religious leader Jim Jones ordered 900 of his devotees to drink cyanide-laced Flavor Aid in a mass suicide.

Some who resisted were shot to death; and Jones himself apparently shot himself in the head.
Yet, except for milestone anniversaries, the events that occurred in Jonestown are not often remembered. In fact, the memories of the events of that day have been reduced to a cliche. "Drinking the Kool-aid" is an expression that I often use, when referring to those who exhibit cult-like behavior. Likewise, I often call some of the crazy evangelical ministers that I observe -- think End Times adherents, for example -- Jim Jones reincarnated. As was noted by Somervell County Salon, I can also say that that phrase has become so much a part of our venacular that I had almost forgotten what it referred to.

Or, as View to the Mountains aptly observed, the 28% of the people who still believe that George Bush is doing a heck of a job are suffering from the "Jonestown Syndrome." Ditto the fans of Sarah Palin!

For more on the Jim Jones cult, see PBS' Jonestown.

(Poster via zoecarnate)

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