History can paint a picture in so many different ways. The golden book that is truly nothing more than His story can plot twists and turns, but what is the reality?
I look at the people who were Jonestown in so many different ways than I used too. At first I thought, here were a bunch of crazy people who followed a sick man named Jim Jones into a South American jungle and poisoned their children with Kool-Aid laced with cyanide, because that is something anyone can research, but isn’t life more than research?
After reading several books, watching numerous documentaries, talking to people who experienced “Jonestown,” I’ve learned that Peoples Temple was not a crazy bunch of people, they were great people who simply fell for the teachings of a man who played on their weaknesses, a word I use with the very loosest interpretation. The majority of the people who made up Peoples Temple wanted to make a change, to make a difference. They went to Guyana to find peace and equality. They wanted to find love. Many of them, like so many of ourselves, were disenfranchised. Many of them were not the “In-Crowd” in high school, they didn’t fit a certain clique. They were unique outcasts who offered so much to the world but didn’t fit a certain image and in essence, the world was robbed of their talents.
In a PBS documentary which first aired two years ago, Jonestown survivor Tim Carter said, “I didn’t come 5,000 miles to commit suicide. I thought Jonestown would be a place where my grandchildren would live 50 years from now.” The words of Mr. Carter should resonate far more than they do, but I don’t believe most people truly grasp this concept. The Jim Jones whom people looked to as a charismatic leader, the man they supported with their donations – and their life savings – the man who they followed 5,000 miles into the jungle, was not the same man when judgment day came. The Jim Jones they met in Indiana and California was a man who provided something that society did not offer during that time: true equality. In Jonestown, though, the only equality they found was in death.
When people tell you that the people of Jonestown willingly killed their children, they leave out the fact that armed guards surrounded them and threatened to shoot them if they did not take the Kool-Aid. They don’t tell you how many people fought to saved their children. They don’t tell you how many were injected with the poison. If anyone really got to know the majority of the people of Peoples Temple, they would know just how incredible they were truly were and how it was too late when they realized their leader was a fraud.
For everybody who reads my writings or follows me in any way, I gonna ask a favor of you. Take a step back and ask yourself this question: “If you were 8,000 miles from home in a jungle with no passport and went there to make a better life for yourself and your family and you realized things went terribly wrong, but you had no money and no where to turn, what would you do? And if on that terrible day there were armed guards with guns and rifles surrounding you and you were forced to drink poison, what options do you really have?”
Take one thing away from this:
Before you judge these people and call them crazy, read their stories. Put yourself in their shoes. It’s understandable to view Jim Jones as an evil and sadistic leader, but the same does not extend to those who followed him The people of Peoples Temple and Jonestown should be judged for who they were, not by what they did on November 18th, 1978.
(Bill Neri-Amadeo is a lawyer who lives in New Jersey. His complete collection of writings for the jonestown report may be found here. He can be reached at AmadeowLaw@Aol.com.)