Letter from Rikke Wettendorff

Dear Ron Haulman;

To me the memorial is an extension of the effort to humanize the people who lost their lives in Guyana on 18 November 1978 the cemetery undertook when it agreed to give their remains a final resting place. With this memorial their names will be remembered – at long last.

I know that there has been some controversy over the inclusion of Jim Jones’ name on the memorial. While I realize that this is a sensitive issue, I feel that including Jim Jones’ name is important for at least four reasons:

First of all, it is a historical fact that Jim Jones died in Jonestown. We may have certain feelings about him and his role in the tragedy, but that doesn’t change the fact that he died there. So for historical accuracy (and posterity) it is important that his name is included.

Secondly, the question of responsibility to me is much more complicated than just “Jim Jones did it”, because research shows that Jim Jones in fact didn’t “do it”, at least not by himself – nurses killed the elderly, parents killed their children and so on. This complex dynamic is important to remember if we truly want to understand what happened at Jonestown. Including Jim Jones’ name will serve to do that.

Thirdly, and maybe most importantly, humanizing Jim Jones by including his name along with everyone else who died, will not honour him, but simply humanize him. And by humanizing him we have a much greater chance of understanding Jonestown and learning from the events there, than if we are blinded by the image of a villain.

Finally I think that an inclusive memorial has a much greater chance of bringing about healing and forgiveness, than one that harbours anger. To heal and to forgive are not easy, especially when it comes to a tragedy like Jonestown. However, it is my understanding that many members of the survivor community have struggled to do just that over the years that have gone by. I am confident that this memorial will be a source of peace for many people.

Thank you for aiding in the completion of this important task.

Yours sincerely

Rikke Wettendorff

Originally posted on July 25th, 2013.

Last modified on December 9th, 2013.
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