Richard Tropp’s Last Letter (Text)

Nov. 18, 1977 [1978] – The Last Day of Peoples Temple

To Whomever Finds This Note

Collect all the tapes, all the writing, all the history. The story of this movement, this action, must be examined over and over. It must be understood in all of its incredible dimensions. Words fail. We have pledged our lives to this great cause. [Two words crossed out] We are proud to have something to die for. We do not fear death. We hope that the world will someday realize [cross-out] the ideals of brotherhood, justice and equality that Jim Jones has lived and died for. We have all chosen to die for this cause. We know there is no way that we can avoid misinterpretation. But [cross-out] Jim Jones and this movement were born too soon. The world was not ready to let us live.

I am sorry there is no eloquence as I write these final words. We are resolved, but grieved that we cannot make [cross-out] the truth of our witness clear. [cross-out]

This is the last day of our lives. May the world find a way to a new birth of social justice. If there is any way that our lives and the life of Jim Jones can ever help that take place, we will not have lived in van [vain].

[cross-out] Jim Jones did not order anyone to attack or kill anyone. It was done by individuals who had [cross-out] too much of seeing people try to destroy this movement, Jim Jones. [Several words crossed out] Their actions have left us no alternative, and rather than see this cause decimated, we have chosen to give our lives. We are proud of that choice.

Please try to understand. Look at all. Look at all in perspective. Look at Jonestown, see what we have tried to do – This was a monument to life, [cross-out] to the [re]newal of the human spirit, broken by capitalism, by a system of exploitation & injustice. Look at all that was built by a beleaguered people. We did not want this kind of ending – we wanted to live, to shine, to bring light to a world that is dying for a little bit of love. To those left behind of our loved ones, many of whom will not understand, who never knew this truth, grieve not, we are grateful for this opportunity to bear witness – a bitter witness [cross-out] – history has chosen our destiny in spite of our own desire to forge our own. We were at a cross/purpose with history. But we are calm in this hour of our collective leave-taking. As I write these words people are silently amassed, taking a [cross-out] quick potion, inducing sleep, relief. We are a long-suffering people. [cross-out] Many of us are weary with a long search, a long struggle – going back not only in our own lifetime, but a long painful heritage.

(Please see the histories of our people that are in a building called teachers resource center.)

Many of us are now dead. Each moment, another passes over to a peace. We are begging only for some [cross-out] understanding. It will take more than small minds, reporters minds, to fathom these events. Something must come of this. Beyond all the circumstances surrounding the immediate event, someone can perhaps find the symbolic, the eternal [cross-out] in this moment – the meaning of a people, a struggle – I wish I had time to put it all together, that I had done it. I did not do it. I failed to write the book. Someone else, others will have to do this. Please study this movement, [cross-out] from the very origins of Jim Jones in the rural poverty of Indiana, out from the heart of [cross-out] the America that he later was to stand against for its betrayal of its ideals.

These are a beautiful people, a brave people, not afraid.

There is quiet as we leave this world. The sky is gray. People file [illegible word] slowly and take the somewhat bitter drink. Many more must drink. Our destiny. It is sad that we could not let our light shine in truth, unclouded by the demons of accident, circumstance, miscalculation, error that was not our intent, beyond our intent.

I hope that someone writes this whole story. It is not “news.” It is more. We merge with millions of others, we are subsumed in the archetype.

People hugging each other, embracing, we are hurrying – [cross-out] we do not want to be captured. We want to bear witness at once.

We did not want it this way. All was going well as Ryan completed [his] first day here. Then a man tried to [cross-out] attack him, unsuccessfully [word “some” crossed out] at some time, several set out into jungle wanting to overtake [cross-out] Ryan, aide, and others who left with him. They did, and several killed. When we heard this, we had no choice. We [cross-out] would be taken. We have to go as one, we want to live as Peoples Temple, or end it. We have chosen. It is finished. [Emphatic underline, with flourish]

Hugging & kissing & tears & silence & joy in a long line.

Touches and whispered [cross-out] words as this silent line passes. Determination, purpose. A proud people. Only last night, their voices raised in unison, a voice of affirmation and today, a different sort of affirmation, a different dimension of that same victory of the human spirit.

A tiny kitten sits next to me. Watching. A dog barks. The birds gather on the telephone wires. Let all the story of this People[s] Temple be told. Let all the books be opened. This sight … o terrible victory. How bitter that we did not, could not, that Jim Jones was crushed by a world that he didn’t make – how great the victory.

If nobody understands, it matters not. I am ready to die now. Darkness [cross-out] settles over Jonestown on its last day on earth.