It was with mixed emotions that I learned that this is the final edition of the jonestown report. Like everyone else who has been asked, invited, coddled, urged, reminded – and reminded again – to please submit their writing for any of these reports, I have received the invitations both as an opportunity to write and with a sense of obligation to write. Perhaps now, though, the most appropriate response is one of acknowledgement.
I appreciate very much the effort and the hard work that the publishers and editors have put into creating this journal every year. I remember my reaction 15 years ago when I learned about the first edition of the then-four page publication: “A Jonestown Report? What is there to report? Isn’t it all pretty much out there already?” But I found the first few issues interesting, especially the articles written by survivors, and began to look forward to the annual reports. Learning what other survivors had to say was very helpful in my ongoing healing process. I also discovered that I had an avenue, if I so chose, to express my feelings/opinions on any number of topics, and not just those that related directly to Peoples Temple, e.g. Hurricane Katrina.
As the report grew and grew, I realized that this particular forum was very important in continuing the dialogue about Jonestown, in contributing to the growing canon of PT and Jonestown research, and that other members – like me – truly appreciated reading the words of other survivors. Not only did they help clarify my own feelings and understanding, they educated me about that which I wasn’t aware of while in PT.
Reading the essays by family members of those who died in Jonestown, as well as those who were living with survivors, also helped me really begin to grasp how far and wide the effects of PT’s demise ripple across the sands of time.
As the years progressed, the jonestown report grew. More and more the opinions of researchers, academicians, students, and other interested parties began appearing. There were many times when my personal opinions and observations were at complete odds with some of these opinions/conclusions/postulations. However, I appreciated the diversity of opinion one could find in the report. In many ways, it reflected – and reflects – the complexity and contradictions of the history of Peoples Temple.
the jonestown report is not going away, but it won’t be published in the same format anymore. This “final” edition will reflect just how much it has grown. I am thankful that this vehicle of learning and dialogue has been available for all these years, and I look forward to seeing what the new incarnation of the jonestown report will look like. To Mac and Becky, my deepest appreciation. And to all those who have jumped in more recently – Rikke, Jordan, Laura and Don – I extend my appreciation and respect.
(Jonestown survivor Tim Carter is a regular contributor to the jonestown report. His previous stories may be found here. He was also a speaker during the Griot Institute of African Studies lecture series entitled Jonestown: 35 Years Later at Bucknell University; his presentation appears on this page (scroll down the videos).)