JONESTOWN SURVIVOR NOTES PEOPLES TEMPLE LEGACY

A FURTHER LEGACY OF PEOPLES TEMPLE

The 35th anniversary of the deaths in Guyana is this November 18, 2013. Many of us continue to be haunted by that day. We survivors have each found our own way to memorialize the event, and certainly those lives lost. My own way, for these last fifteen years, is to discuss it and reflect on it. Sometimes, I speak publicly about my involvement in Peoples Temple. Sometimes, I do it with fellow survivors, sometimes I do it with chosen friends. Since I first was able to raise my head up in the air and not bury it in sand as I did the first twenty years, I have wanted open discernment and discussion. As a teacher, I live for “teachable moments” and sometimes I teach others in this light, and sometimes others teach me.

I am many things besides a Peoples Temple survivor. I am a parent, wife for the past 31 years, a bilingual educator, an author, an Occupy member, an ACLU member, a Derechos Humanos Escondido member, a Board member of the Communal Studies Association, a Quaker, and a public speaker about 1960s and 1970s history, sociology, religion, grief, activism, etc.

This past week represents the best of times of remembering my own loved ones, and opening the discussion. From Monday, July 29-August 3, 2013, I attended a Quaker Retreat – the Pacific Yearly Meeting, in Mt. Madonna Center near Watsonville.

Pacific Yearly Meeting is all-consuming. We take care of Quaker business in the “Meeting for Worship on the Occasion of Business.” During the entire six days of gathering, we 300 Quakers from California, Mexico, Hawaii, Bolivia, Ecuador, and our guests, live, eat, converse, sleep, and worship together. We represent the larger Quaker community.

My own week was awesome and enlightening. I found it especially interesting that so many Quakers had connections with Peoples Temple. I met a man who had written an early article for the Bay Guardian and knew Mike Prokes, a woman who knew Carolyn “Sue” Looman – a wonderful friend of mine, a woman whose friend had lost her mother in Jonestown, another Friend who knew Barbara Baker – a kind woman who lost her mother and sons. Another Friend had been in AA with a fellow survivor. And, I met another Friend who had been in an Adoption Support Group with Jim and Marceline in Indiana in the 1950s and 1960s. There were even more connections. Nancy Nanna, a Friend and friend I met when I spoke at the Ukiah library about my book Jonestown Survivor: An Insider’s Look, was there as well. A man who had created his own religious group also spoke with me about his experience of his group going awry once he left the leadership. And, one more person came up to me and knew Ray and Viola Gottshalk! There were so many people, from so many parts of our society, who were deeply touched by the Temple.

Rather than being isolated because of the tragedy, again, in yet another setting, I felt the experience was shared with my F(f)riends this past week. These are people who support the highest ideals of humanity, many of the same as those espoused by the members of Peoples Temple. It was an enriching and important week for me.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,