Jonestown 40th Anniversary Survivor Reflects on Lessons

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Lama Lilan Po Ph.D.

Jonestown 40th Anniversary Survivor Reflects on Lessons

Post by Lama Lilan Po Ph.D. »

Journalist who survived Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple horror show wrote this for The Washington Post. The excerpt rings true for all of us. ... 3e52583f77

What do you think are the lessons of Jonestown, what it ultimately
taught us about who we are?

I’m not sure, frankly, that, at the time, the real lessons of
Jonestown were very clear. You know, people focused on the mass
suicide-murder, the bodies. Anyone who was alive at that time, it was
a very striking image, and people may even remember Jim Jones because
there was something about him that was frightening. But the real
lesson of Jonestown, and I wish our country had understood this: These
people followed someone who led them to destruction. They believed in
this guy. He lied to them. He cheated. He was involved with the sexual
abuse of boys and girls in his temple. He took their money. He really
enslaved them. And then he betrayed them, and then he led them to
their deaths. I wish we had learned to be more cautious about
following people who promise things and then betray the trust that
people have given them. And I just hope that it doesn’t happen again.

Forty years later, in a world that has changed in so many ways, do you
think this sort of thing could happen again?

Yes, there is the potential for it to happen again. It has happened
again a number of times. We’ve had Waco, and we’ve had other incidents
where it’s not as many people, but it’s the same sort of situation. I
feel strongly that we need to be more skeptical about political or
religious leaders who promise things, who seem to be hypocritical, who
talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.

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