Thursday, September 7, 2017

Sylvie and musings on Jim Jones excerpt

Even as a young boy, Jim Jones was weird. He grew up in Indiana, on the wrong side of the tracks, unaccepted, a loner, fixated on Pentecostal religion. He was said to kill small animals so he could recite eulogies for them and trap neighborhood kids in his barn so he could preach to them. She imagined, like all tyrants, Jones as a small boy, where others were climbing trees and building forts, Jones set his sights somewhere else, honed his skills of elocution and gesturing, fed his ego until it grew first inside of him and then outside of him, so that anyone standing next to him was somehow smaller in size and importance. He became charismatic, bewitching, acquired and perfected all the mannerisms and makings of a cult leader with inexplicable sway over his followers. The followers sought a power to control them, someone who could say do it or die. It was no surprise that it was a man. Most cult leaders are males (I know this to be a fact). It is no surprise as males have the right kind of authority. And they are the superior beings, according to the bible, according to Simone de Beauvoir, according to the the written and unwritten word, and at some point, it became internalized, a maxim, an unconscious norm accepted as truth. And no matter the culture, beliefs or values, we women hold the community together by simply continuing with the daily routines of life, despite chaos, an impending doom. The chores more than likely kept us naive, blindly occupied in the trivial, the mundane rituals. It wasn’t surprising then how reporters found order, laundry hung out to dry, fields plowed, and a metal tub filled with grape Flavor Aid and Potassium Cyanide, and the nine-hundred or so bodies piled on top of each other, children at the bottom, the first ones to go, small cups and syringes littered the spaces around them. The messy environment was indicative of an even more tragic possibility, the notion that such an orderly community might litter their environment, might have have come to their senses too late, that they had a glimpse of him, the imposter, and what was happening. But by then the female chores, the mundane that had occupied their minds, kept them captive, unaware, betrayed them, took them down to the depths they had never considered.

I inhaled deeply, my last few drags, heard footsteps, Linda’s abrasive coughing down the hallway, thought of Tim Chapman, the reporter, the photographer, the artist, imagined I might call him, or write to him, ask to meet him for a cup of coffee to talk about the way he saw death in colors, wide angle shots, horizontals and verticals. Tim Chapman extraordinaire. Before his helicopter touched down, he saw it, reported on the compound--the colored specs, happy colors-- the reds and greens and blues, two parrots on a fence-- a red and yellow macaw and a blue and yellow macaw, near the bodies, the good people of the compound, he referred to them, Peoples Temple, the men, women, children, black, white, the rotting meat, swollen, grotesque, cooked and bursting, three days in the sun. Their heads oddly positioned, pointing to Jones.

By the time I took the last drag and blew out the smoke, Linda walked in, scowled, and went about her business, fixing her hair, smoothing out her shirt, checking her teeth, muttering under her breath about not having enough sick time, how she can’t get ahead, how she has to fix the damn wall that her husband punched, and then there’s the car, blew another gasket, needs brakes, and why should she work to support him, and the useless son who can’t get his fat ass off the couch. Just like his father, she said. They hate me. I sleep with one eye open, she added. Believe you me, one eye.

Women like that depress me.

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