Photo by Les Stukenberg.
I’ve been thinking recently of Jim Jones and the 1978 tragedy at Jonestown, still not understanding how so many could drink the Kool-Aid.
A quick recap for our younger readers: Jim Jones founded the People’s Temple and had visions of a perfect Socialist society. He founded Jonestown in Guyana and had hundreds of followers. Basically, your traditional cult. A Congressman, Leo Ryan, visited the compound with some journalists, concerned about reports that some of Jones’ followers were prisoners and unable to leave.
After a cordial visit, Ryan found some of Jones’ followers who said they wanted to leave and asked for his help. He offered to take them home on two airplanes. One of those followers was a plant, and joined with some militants from the compound to attack the group as they were boarding planes. Five people were killed at the airstrip, including Congressman Ryan.
Jones probably knew his run was over, there would be consequences for that attack. He had been practicing a mass suicide ritual with his followers, and now he decided to go through with it. He ordered cyanide added to barrels of grape Flavor Aid (wasn’t actually Kool-Aid, though some of that brand might have been used) and asked his followers to drink, thereby killing themselves.
His followers had been exposed to the best mind control methods of the time, so we’ll never know how much free will they actually had. Some apparently refused, and were murdered. Still, many willingly drank. On Nov. 18, 1978, 918 people, 304 of them children, died.
It boggles the mind how so many could blindly follow.
This week Greg Mengarelli takes the oath of office and becomes mayor of Prescott. I’ve met Greg, seems like a nice and honorable guy and from all reports I’ve heard, he’s done a good job as president of the Prescott Unified School District Governing Board.
As a Prescott resident, I wish him all the best as mayor. However, I was disappointed by his campaign. Instead of focusing on issues and making a strong case on why he’s the best choice, the top message in this non-partisan campaign was essentially, Greg is a Republican, his opponent is a Democrat.
No appealing to us logically, just rely on the fact that Republicans outnumber Democrats 2-to-1 in Prescott to carry him to victory.
I was insulted by it. I’ve never been a one-party voter, having cast votes for Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and my own Greens. In fact, I’ve cast votes for other parties’ candidates even when there was a Green on the ballot, if I thought they would do a better job.
Today, however, we live in polarized times. For example, the governor of Alabama says that she believes the charges against U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore are true, but she intends to vote for him anyway.
Let me stress that, she said she believes the charges are true, that he tried to engage in sexual activity with a 14-year-old when he was in his 30s — which would make him a pedophile — but she still intends to vote for him because the other guy is a Democrat.
Talk about drinking the Kool-Aid.
I don’t mean to suggest that Mengarelli voters only picked him because of his party, that certainly isn’t true. I’m sure most had very good reasons to support him and are excited to see him take the oath. Hopefully, if he runs in any future elections, we’ll hear about those reasons instead of him just repeating he’s a Republican three times in 30 seconds.
When politicians treat us like we’re mindless drones, democracy is damaged. Make the case, earn my vote, never take it for granted just because we might share the same political party. Some of us won’t ever drink the Kool-Aid.