Reflection on Jonestown

by Jodie Arnold

Photo by Jodi Arnold
Photo by Jodi Arnold

As any teacher knows, when you assign a project to your students, you don’t exactly expect them to jump for joy and get started as soon as the words leave your mouth. I know I didn’t. But I’d already been planning ahead for what I wanted to do. Something unexpected, something nobody had even heard of in my generation: Jonestown, the American community in Guyana led by Jim Jones.

When I first heard that Jonestown was a “mass suicide cult,” I had shrugged away from the subject. I figured it was just a large group of people who wanted attention, and had decided to kill themselves. But as I studied further, I discovered that Jim Jones had been a great leader; but not of great things. Every time I learned something new, I wrote it down. When I discovered there were survivors, I did jump for joy, not only at the fact that I could use them in my project, but for the fact that somebody had actually escaped the terrible fate that Jones had in store for them. But before I learned about the survivors, I only had limited info. After the interviews, I created an awareness page about what really happened at Jonestown, because there was almost no knowledge of it before. It clears up what people believe happened, and tells: The Truth about Jonestown.

When I began my project, I created genres that didn’t really relate to Jonestown, like blogs from my character saying “OMG!! Just got a lot more info! Can’t wait to do my interviews!” But today, as I look back at my research, I know that I could have done better. I feel like I did what a freshman would have done: thrown some information together at the last minute and said “There, it’s done.” So, starting today, I’m going to redo my project entirely, to make it meaningful not only to me, but to the people it’s about. I’m going to turn to these people, and tell them that I am not going to treat their lives like they weren’t important, because they were. I’ve realized that these people, dead and alive, haven’t gotten the respects that they deserve. Those people suffered, and many died, because of trickery and hate, not self-death wishes. I will prove the importance of the victims of Jonestown, because their voices deserve to be heard. I will upload as many facts to my awareness page as I can; maybe even create another. Because these people deserve to be acknowledged. And I’d like to be the one to do it.

Originally posted on October 13th, 2013.

Last modified on November 24th, 2013.
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