I am old enough to know where the slang phrase “drinking the Kool-Aid” originated. It originated from a mass suicide event known as the Jonestown Massacre which took place in November of 1978. It isn’t right to call it a “massacre” because it wasn’t one in the true sense of the word. It was the mass suicide of about 909 members of an extreme religious cult known as The Peoples Temple, led by the delusional fanatic Jim Jones.
I still remember seeing this on TV as a kid. There were special news bulletins about it interrupting broadcasts. This will sound creepy, but back then, when there was a broadcast interruption for a special news bulletin, you were relieved it was anything but the beginning of a nuclear war. Because that was what we were always afraid would be the emergency news bulletin. But I remember the aerial footage over Jonestown and the hundreds of decomposing, bloating bodies. Entire families; parents, infants, toddlers, children of all ages. Old people, people holding hands, too many bodies to really wrap your head around as being a mass suicide. See, they could show this on the news back then.
As time went on, it was revealed that the poison was put into Kool-Aid and people lined up to drink it on orders from Jim Jones. Parents gave the poison to their children first, then took it themselves. And we couldn’t fathom this at all. What got into these people?! How could this happen?! What could have caused these 909 people to willingly die for the insane ideas of Jim Jones?! To willingly kill their own children for him. To decide that life itself was not of more worth than what Jim Jones said.
Yes, we asked these questions (or, rather, our parents did) in an era when the Vietnam War was not glorified as a “noble cause” but seen as a pathetic loss of life for nothing. Lives thrown away, and let us not make that mistake again. But look where we are now! Now who’s drinking the Kool-Aid?
We are mired in an imperialistic militarism not seen since the Romans. We glorify endlessly the senseless deaths of human beings who have died at our hands simply because they lived in the Middle East or Africa. We glorify endlessly the deaths of Americans we send off to fight these wars. What’s more, we fail to see the Jim Jones amongst us in our own presidents and the Pentagon, urging us towards a mass suicide event with Russia. And for what?! Their insane vision of “America”?!
We feed this poison to our children as the military is glorified in TV shows they watch, movies they see, computer games they play, and the toys they are given to play with. We teach them that violence is the solution and there is glory and honor in death to accomplish what the government says is worth dying for. Yes, we are feeding them this poison because Jim Jones is alive and well and walks the halls of the White House and the Pentagon.
Just have a look at the TV shows where the U.S. military is endlessly glorified. Killing people left and right because they look different from us and don’t “value” human life like we do. We sure have a funny way of demonstrating how much we value human life, do we not? And, in these shows, when one of the military heroes dies, he’s not crying out in pain, writhing in agony, and calling out to his mother and God. No, he’s extolling the “mission” and how he hopes his death isn’t letting anyone on the team down. As if it’s all some ridiculous staff meeting in some stupid corporation that thinks knick-knacks are going to save the planet.
Right, they don’t want kids to see sex on TV, but watching about 1,000 people mowed down by machine gun fire or some “bad guy” cut in half by a round from a 25mm Chain Gun, well, that’s fine. Because that’s patriotic! Hey, those are the bad guys! Says who? The United States, that’s who! And who made us a judge over the entire planet?
Who’s drinking the Kool-Aid? Well, you might remind yourself that Russia just announced they’re going to keep all the plutonium they had been sending to the U.S. Know why? Because that’s what you use to build nuclear weapons. Our government keeps right on provoking the Russians. Who said they’ll resume sending that plutonium to the U.S. if we’ll stop expanding NATO into Eastern Europe and parking infantry divisions there. But, no, we can’t do that! How will that look, right? Well, it’ll look a lot better than several billion incinerated corpses, I can tell you that much. But we keep right on lining up in front of the Pentagon as the barrels of Kool-Aid are wheeled out.
They tell us that death for a cause is glorious. That’s what they thought at Jonestown, too. Know what we saw on the news? Hundreds of decomposing, bloated corpses. Children, mothers, infants. They didn’t look so glorious to me. They looked tragic beyond belief, woefully betrayed by the man they trusted, endlessly sad, and it all showed how undignified such deaths really are. And, what, we think these people are somehow different from us? That this can’t happen here? Hey, these people ARE us. This IS the road we’re heading down. Religious fanaticism, extreme cults, and militarism are all the same thing. And they lead to the same destinations.
We’ve been at war for fifteen years now. But, in reality, we’ve actually been at war since 1991 in one way or another with not much time in between them. The government teaches our children to obey this fanaticism, so they’ll drink the Kool-Aid. Which is not hard, because the parents hand them the cup. Can anyone at all see the insanity? Does anyone see that this all carries a price that we will surely have to pay? We are paying this price right now, are we not? And the bills to be paid will keep arriving well into the future.
In 1978, 909 members of an extreme religious cult committed mass suicide. Many people have either forgotten this or don’t know about it. They use the phrase “drinking the Kool-Aid” and they don’t know where that came from. They parrot the phrase because they heard it somewhere. Just like they parrot the phrases “Proud to be an American” and “These colors don’t run!” All those phrases point to an undeniable truth: Fanaticism will always convince plenty of people to die for it.
We Americans are good at looking out of windows. We can see the faults of others in the world. But we cannot and do not even dare look into the mirror and see our own faults. Because we’re afraid of what we might see there. We might see Jim Jones. Or we might see ourselves handing the cup of Kool-Aid to our children. Because that’s exactly what we’re doing in going along with all these fanatics.