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'Drinking the Kool-Aid' will never mean the same. How a horrible massacre changed a common phrase  2 Months ago

Source:   USA Today  

"They drank the Kool-Aid."

How many times have you hear that phrase? It's usually directed toward people who are seemingly following a person or movement without independent thought. It has been applied by all parts of the political spectrum to all parts of the political spectrum.

But many of the people who toss out that phrase are not aware of its origins.

Nov. 18th will mark the 40th anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre, in which "drinking the Kool-Aid" was a pivotal part in the deaths of 918 people, mostly Americans, in a commune in Guyana.

Jim Jones, an evangelist from San Francisco, had founded Jonestown in the South American nation earlier in the 1970s. He chose Guyana as the site for his "utopia" to get out of the reach of U.S. authorities and news media, and because the government of Guyana offered a hands-off posture, as long as the right hands were greased.

Jones was not your ordinary evangelist. Unlike many of his counterparts of the day, who were often regarded as cult leaders, he easily moved among the movers and shakers of California. He was appointed chairman of the San Francisco Housing Authority by the mayor, and was even honored at a testimonial dinner attended by the governor.

Jones had founded the Peoples Temple in Indianapolis, Indiana, in the late 1950s as a "socialist paradise." But he met with resistance because of his politics. He moved the church to San Francisco. But the move also exposed the church to increased media scrutiny, so Jones chose the remote Guyana site.

Throughout the 1970s, he recruited hundreds of members to move to what was dubbed Jonestown and begin building the colony.

Pressure began to build back home, however, as relatives of Peoples Temple members claimed the members were being prevented from leaving Jonestown.

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In November of 1978, Congressman Leo Ryan of San Francisco led a delegation that included the media and family members to Jonestown.

They were initially denied entry, but Jones later relented. While Ryan and his party were there, a member slipped NBC News reporter Don Harris a note saying they were being held captive.

Ryan and his party, along with about a dozen defectors, departed for a nearby airstrip. But before they could board the planes, they were ambushed by Peoples Temple gunmen. Ryan, Harris and several others were killed on the runway.

Back at the colony, Jones, knowing his days were numbered, ordered a pre-planned mass suicide. This was carried out by forced-feeding of cyanide-laced grape drink to members, which included many children. Many people, including Jones, died of gunshot wounds.

When U.S. authorities arrived, they found almost 1,000 bodies (including some 300 age 17 and under), bloated by the jungle heat.

Most of the remains were buried in a mass grave near San Francisco, and the jungle reclaimed the site.

This led to the phrase "drinking the Kool-Aid," often directed to somebody who holds unquestioned beliefs. Ironically, authorities determined Jones used Flavor-Aid, a similar product, for the poison. All these years Kool-Aid has been getting a bad rap.

 

 

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