It’s significant to me that Michael was born the week I met Jim Jones and joined Peoples Temple, that his own entry into this world accompanied that series of epiphanies which provoked my conversion to what he as an archaeologist of souls would decades later help to recover and deconstruct. More than anyone else Michael represented to me the very best of the next generation of radicalized queers, whose passions went far beyond the boundaries of any ghetto. He was one of those lonely few not satisfied with convenient explanations once anything had seriously aroused his curiosity, as the genesis of the fate of Peoples Temple had – especially if he felt that justice had not been rendered. He simply had to find out for himself and thereby contribute to our common body of useful knowledge, regardless of how the rest of the world felt about him or his mission. He knew as well as anybody that healing cannot come without the real, however bittersweet, truth, and that action which is meaningful can only proceed on the basis of full comprehension.
Michael pretty much shared not only Jim Jones’ analysis of what was and still is desperately wrong with this greed driven society that’s rotten to the core, but also PT’s vision of how to break through to the next socialist level. Despite his preference for a libertarian socialist/anarchist path, he repeatedly insisted to me that if Peoples Temple existed now, he would rush out to join it. In short, he was a soul brother and one not afraid of hard work transcribing tapes, tracking down hard-to-find and sometimes difficult-to-work with survivors and putting up with us, writing draft after draft of his manuscript on what became much more than just a LGBT angle on Peoples Temple. Had he lived a few years longer, he might have published not only A Lavender Look at Peoples Temple which exists in all but final draft form but also a biography of Jim Jones which would he promised me would upset many folks with vested interests in the conventional wisdom such as that elaborated in Tim Reiterman’s all but canonical Raven.
He was a man with many lives – which he kept amazingly separate – and I only got to see a few of them: Michael, the Peoples Temple researcher, who never seemed to get enough; Michael, the student of unconventional renderings of ancient history, particularly that articulated by Immanuel Velikhovsky, a fascination which we shared; and Michael, the rabid right-wing Zionist who entertained not a two state solution – much less the single binational state I do – but a forcible transfer of the Palestinian population out of The West Bank and Gaza. He recognized where I stood when we first met because among the seven or eight bumper stickers on my car were two that announced: “Stop the Occupation of Palestine” and “End US Aid to Israel ”. But he didn’t raise an eyebrow or say a word. It was only when I saw him at the first reading of the play, The Peoples Temple, wearing a Star of David Tee shirt, that I realized we might not always see eye to eye. When we met up a year later on different sides of a heated march and rally, I think each of us realized he had a dear friend on the other side who would always remind him of the humanity of the other. Despite our differences, we greeted each other with a warm smile and even warmer hugs.
I have lost a brother, a friend in the enemy’s camp. I hope you are well, Michael, and in peace. Thank you for the gifts you brought into my life, the example of courage in pursuit of truth and justice. Thank you for committing a significant portion of your much too short life to recovering the lives of others you never personally knew that might have been lost to time’s forgetfulness in the jungle of Guyana or the ghetto of the inner city of San Francisco. Thank you most of all for trying to stay true to yourself. In so doing, you have served as a model even to me by twenty three years your elder.
Bless you, Michael. You were an incredible guy here on earth. I’m already missing you a lot. And so are a lot of other folks too.