Today I did something I’ve been meaning to do for a while: visiting the Jonestown Memorial at the Evergreen cemetery. I didn’t feel my intention was to gawk at it; I wanted to pay my respects but also: yes, I am fascinated with Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple. The memorial is the burial place for about 400 unclaimed bodies. Four hundred. It’s alarming that nearly half the victims were not claimed.
It’s no secret that I am fascinated by cults and the ability of their leaders to capture the trust and admiration of so many. I feel a connection to cults because in some way, if I were to live in another time or under specific circumstances, I would be a perfect target for cults. [In fact, I’m a tad bit insulted that I haven’t been recruited by one.] I get it. Finding a purpose and finding a community are probably the biggest desires of most people. Cults, no doubt, give people that. [So does organized religion, the “acceptable” type of cults that exist.]
Of course, I would recommend the documentary Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple [the full movie is on youtube, below.] The irony is, at the beginning of the movement, The Peoples Temple represented a lot of radical ideas that most embrace now: racial equality, care and support for the elderly, universal healthcare, etc. Not that Jim Jones himself espoused the ideals he was speaking of; there was various affairs, sexual assaults, political bribes, etc.
The survivors’ guilt of the former members is a pain I can never even begin to imagine.