Anyone who was alive at the time and especially, living in California, remembers this event. The memory is seared into those who survived, and the relatives of the lost. Further, the public’s collective consciousness is also informed by events like this. It’s not correct to dismiss those who went to Jonestown to build a better life, as naïve and easily duped. Cultism and the power of a charismatic leader can be siren songs to us all, given the right circumstance. Only knowledge of the past, and instinct can protect us, and sometimes even those two angels fail. Jackie says:
[…Leo Ryan is often the forgotten element of the Jonestown story. Not only is he the only member of Congress ever to be assassinated in the line of duty, more important, he was the only congressperson that thousands of Americans, from his district or not, knew they could trust when no one else would listen. He didn’t win all his battles, but to Leo, the fight was as important as the outcome. There is a quote from Winston Churchill that reminds me of Leo Ryan: “Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”…]
Jackie is right in saying that Leo Ryan is often forgotten as an element of the story. Yet he and his group, like Jackie, became our shamans. His instinct was right, and their knowledge was passed on to us. Younger folk, who were not alive then, cannot have access to this collective knowledge, unless we pass it on too. Nor can they understand our worry about such things. That means we must memorialize it, analyze it and spread it around. Knowledge and instinct are what protect us.
As she relates her story, Jackie is right too, in her quoting Winston Churchill, I would only add the aphorism: “Ever Vigilant”.
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