Mass Murderers, Megalomaniacs, Torturers & Fear Mongers
by David Parker Wise
There is an important historical incident that is overlooked for its true meaning in these trying times. Historically this incident was rated second in international news impact to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, until 9/11 bumped it to third. In November of 1978, almost a thousand Americans died in a somewhat coerced mass suicide in the South American country of Guyana.
What was the coercion? They did not want to be tortured. We have been hearing a lot about torture in the news lately, but in Jonestown on that fateful day of November the notion of torture was the emotional and mental blackmail that would convince mothers who loved their babies to “save” them from this horrible nightmare… by drinking cyanide. In the famous “Death Tape,” there are more than ten references by Jones to the horrors that were about to befall the children, such as: “Don’t be afraid to die. You’ll see, there’ll be a few people land out here. They’ll torture some of our children here! They’ll torture our people! They’ll torture our seniors. We cannot have this!”
Does all this seem far out and weird? Think again. This odd scenario is closer to us than you might think. Looking at photos from Iraq and Afghanistan and hearing stories about rendition from Guantanamo may generate a black market for cyanide pills for those of us today who are growing more and more afraid of torture. Who can stand the thought of being tied down while your genitalia are cut on or electrocuted by some evil snickering freak?
Under the rubric of the so-called war on terror, the “terrorist in chief” has made torture legal. On top of that he has seized constitutionally-illegal powers of detention and has thrown out Habeas Corpus (a fundamental right securing basic freedoms since the Magna Carta) just like so much kitchen garbage. Brown and Root is busy building detention centers for imaginary “unlawful enemy combatants,” which – as it turns out – might legally include Americans who protest our governments invasion, torture and mass murder of some new innocent civilian population. Congressional acquiescence with the president’s demands may make these outrages momentarily legal – at least until the courts show some backbone on these issues and rule against them – but this wholesale destruction of civil liberties will never be right.
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I got away from Jim Jones because he was losing his mind. Jim was taking speed, just as millions of overweight housewives did during the seventies, popping prescription tablets like they were candy. Jim already had a lot of trouble with paranoia as evidenced by bouts of hypochondria, but the regular use of amphetamines causes mental ward-like schizophrenia. I was there to see him do a flip-flop: There was the Jim Jones that I met and the Jim Jones that I got away from. Jim started out championing civil rights and wound up taking people’s civil rights away. He started out opposing the use of fear but later defended its use. Yet speed is not the main reason for his demise. That was due to his misconception that you can fight fire with fire, that you can beat the enemy with their own medicine without risking becoming the enemy yourself.
Jim Jones was a consummate politician. He had rubbed elbows with the best of them and prided himself in beating the enemy with their own tactics. However, there is a great pitfall in using the tactics of your enemy: you become what you hate. Jim copied the tactics of Us-Them thinking. This leads to dictatorship. He copied “end justifies the means” thinking. This leads to dictatorship. However, he was copying the institutions and the corporations and the government of our country, and – let me repeat – these non-sustainable methods lead to dictatorship.
No one knew Us-Them thinking any better than the Nazis. In the delusional world of the Thousand Year Reich the Jews, Gypsies and Slavs were considered inferior. They were called “untermensch”, the German word for sub-human. Us-Them labels turned into a holocaust, resulting in millions of deaths and untold suffering. An Us-Them mentality dehumanizes precious human beings into objects or animals, free to be tortured and killed. America is doing the same thing with a new word: terrorists.
Fear is the tool of cults and dictatorships. It does not matter if it is the Left holding up Torture as the greatest fear or if it is the right holding up Terrorism as the greatest fear. Only a cult or a dictatorship rules people with fear.
Peoples Temple was named for its leftist identity. These were the days of Malcolm and Martin and flower children, and we were all against the Vietnam War. I remember Jim speaking outdoors in public and quoting General David Shupe, “We have fought war on several continents for Gulf Oil, US Steel, tungsten and rubber, and if America would get its dirty dollar grubbing hands out of Vietnam there would be peace tomorrow.” I remember saying, “Man, this preacher is boldly and eloquently presenting an anti-war message in a way that will work.” There was a great energy in the air, but there was also something odd.
From the time that I first met Jim on my arrival in Ukiah, California, he publicly posed a scenario that the whole country was headed toward dictatorship, and that if the whole church followed him in opposition to the Vietnam War, concentration camps or torture could follow. He said not to worry, however, that before he would allow any of this precious family to face political imprisonment or torture, he would make up some kind of potion to save anyone from suffering.
This was so far out that I don’t think anyone paid too much attention. Yet he always browbeat the church with fear of nuclear war, concentration camps and torture. He backed up his warnings with stories of the American Indian, and the Japanese, and the Samuel Yette book, The Choice, which suggested that black folk might be rounded up and put in concentration camps. He often described the McCarran Act as the legal way people were to be herded into camps. This was a law passed during the McCarthy Era which threatened to round up Communist sympathizers. Now, of course, the word “terrorist” has replaced the word “Communist” as the catch-all bogeyman. And just as colonial Massachusetts had the Salem witch hunts and the 1950’s had the Communist witch hunts, we now have terrorist witch hunts.
There are lots of differences in the times of the Vietnam War and the current “War” in Iraq, but there are also a lot of similarities. In those days, the left did not know that Communist China was killing and oppressing people in the name of “the revolution.” This is a perversion where the left becomes the right. Unfortunately the left and the right both often turn out to mean Big Government. I call it the Left Wing, the Right Wing, Chicken Wings, and Globaloney. Time and experience tends to teach that most Conservatives don’t Conserve anything and most Liberals don’t Liberate anything. In the days of Joe McCarthy, both the Remocrats and the Depublicans voted for the McCarran Act, and these days both “parties” voted for war and torture and the elimination of the Habeas Corpus. A favorable mention is due the Democrats, however, for voting against shooting wolves from helicopters, even though they voted that it was okay to shoot Lebanese civilians from helicopters