Thursday, April 28, 2011

First they are small, but as they grow they tangle

My Friend Jacki's Diary, Excerpt #1
November 18, 1971

It’s been a long time since I wrote anything down in a diary - since junior year in high school at least.  But at 19, now that I know where I’m headed, and with all that’s changed in my life, it felt like time to start again.

I didn’t know the Peoples Temple used to be Jim Jones’s house when I first saw it. It’s in an open space with hills and trees all around, and a star-shaped stained glass window that makes colors on the wall inside.  When I found out that he had built the church out of nothing, right over his swimming pool, I thought, what a good man, to give his whole life, everything he has, even his house, for the people.  Now he baptizes people in that pool.

A little over a year ago I was hitch-hiking through Redwood Valley.  It’s a little backwater town near Lake Mendocino and the Russian River.  I hadn’t had a really good meal in, probably, two days, and I was sleeping wherever I could.   But I did get some good rides.  The best one was with a long-haul trucker – he let me sleep in the back of the cab and shared a bottle of Jim Beam with me. 

When I got dropped off in town, a sister from the Temple invited me to spend the night and share a hot meal.  It was a cold night, and that was the best meal I ever had – brown rice and vegetables and warm homemade wheat bread – plain, but good.  And the best bed I ever slept in.  That’s how I joined the Peoples Temple.  That and what they stand for.

My father is highly ranked in the Air Force.  I guess I’m proud of him in some ways, because he is a very important man.  But in other ways I’m ashamed.  When I think about third world children hungry and dying, and the bombs that are being dropped on their heads, destroying their villages, and all of the money being spent to make their lives a living hell when it could be spent to feed them and give them a future – I guess the biggest part of me loses respect for my father.  He’s never there for me anyway.

I was raised a born-again Christian by my mom, kind of – ironic. Funny how hard-hearted and cold a person who claims to be a Christian can be, when it comes to judging people, or putting a little girl in solitary confinement for hours and hours at a time, like my mother used to do to me.  She used to leave me locked up, sometimes in the dark, so long I would wet my pants, and my dad never even noticed.  I still can’t be alone in the dark for more than a few minutes, which is why I like having people around me all the time.  

In the People’s Temple I’m always surrounded by people, and they aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty to help a person out.  Tim is one of the elders, a lawyer who works in the DA’s office up here in the valley, and works down in San Francisco with me a lot now that Jim has me doing jobs for him down in the city.  He told me when he first moved to Redwood Valley, he was a brand new lawyer, and the bar association assigned him to remodel some offices to open a Legal Aid for the poor in Ukiah.  He was kind of a part-time Christian before he met Jim, like me, except he was a part-time Christian on purpose, and I was running away from my mom’s version of the Lord. 

He had hardly a dime to do the job, and looked everywhere for volunteers to work on the project with him.  He was about to give up when somebody gave him the Temple’s phone number.  After one call, Jim had 30 people down there with tools and everything, ready to work.  They didn’t quit till the job was done.  That’s how our people are.  If you need them, they are there, and they never let you down.  Jim won’t allow it.

Before we had the San Francisco Temple, Jim used to send Greyhound buses down to Oakland to the Macedonia Baptist Church and brought back hundreds of black people, families, to Ukiah to hear him talk about freedom and equality.  That’s when the church really started growing, when the good work started happening.  People would come without jobs and homeless, just out of jail, and the Temple would take them in.  They had a place to stay, clean clothes, and learned to interview for jobs.  When they got hired, a Temple member would follow them and support them to make sure they succeeded. 

When everyone saw what our future as a church community could really be, with everyone living as one and equal, they started bringing everything they had - their houses, their savings, their paychecks.  Now we have everyone’s lives in our hands.  It makes me feel humble, and proud.

November 18, 1972

It’s been a year since I last wrote, but here I am.  This book even has dust on it.

Jim started giving me more responsibility around Christmas last year, including with finances, and I haven’t stopped running since.  I’m on the road between Redwood Valley and the city almost every day.  I hardly sleep any more, but I love it.  We’ve gotten really close, and he’s even put me on the Temple Planning Commission, the PC. 

The Examiner ran a few articles in September that are driving Jim nuts.  They say that Jim’s faith healing is bogus.  Jim does put on a little bit of a show; that’s his strength.  What he’s trying to do is bring people along so they can believe in something bigger than themselves, so they can trust.  That’s the only way we can get anything accomplished, is if people trust enough to let themselves be led.

But people don’t trust by nature.  So Jim re-enacts healings with props, and brings experienced members on board to help out.  Of course most of the congregation doesn’t know that – just insiders. 

People come through for Jim whenever he needs them because he makes us sign our name on a blank piece of paper at the bottom.  That’s our pledge of trust with him.  We know that as long as we’re loyal and never let him down, he has our good name safe on that sheet of paper.  But if we let him down or do evil against him, we know that our good name is his.  We have to trust him completely, and he has to trust us, or none of it works.

So as for the healing, someone will help out by suddenly “not feeling so well,” and then maybe they get a little worse and people start to notice, and Jim will one day bring them up to the front of the congregation and they will be healed.  What they “had” all along was cancer, or a growth, and he pulls out some wet chicken liver, or maybe a gizzard if it was a tumor, and they are healed. He’s even raised the dead a few times – people locked up with rigor mortis and their eyes popping out and everything - and he just tells them to come to him, and they do.  Or maybe he’ll be touched by God and start speaking in tongues, and then he’ll touch a person with an affliction, let’s say they’re lame, and they’ll start moving their legs and get up, like this lady he made walk last Sunday, who was really a church secretary acting like she couldn’t walk.  These are re-enactments for the purpose of building trust.  When Jim re-enacts a healing and more members start to trust him with their lives, then we know it’s really working. 

Jim and I have this special look we share now, eye to eye, since we’ve gotten close.  Nobody can take that away.  I always sit right near the front so I can catch his eye when we really pull off something smooth.  He knows I’m there for him, no matter what.  And he would die for us, I’m sure of it.

As for the healing, in a way, the person is healed, of their selfishness and any lack of loyalty they may have had, and then they embrace the cause wholeheartedly.  This is for their good.  Most of our community is black. Without solidarity, they have nothing.  No power, no nothing.  But in the community, there is power.

It’s hard to take the kind of journalism we get attacked with.  The Examiner ran an article saying that a man yelled, “Jim Jones is God Almighty Himself!” during one of our services, and made it look like that was a bad thing, like we’re some kind of fanatics.  Yes, that happened, but isn’t that a good thing?  People believe what they need to believe to be free, and we let them.  We’ve made little signs that say, “I believe in Jim Jones,” and people carry them when we go out together to show solidarity.  That’s what Jim is there for, to help people believe enough to embrace their own freedom, and the freedom of all the people.  How they show that, is nobody else’s business but their own.

November 20, 1972

We heard back from the Scientologists again today.  Jim asked me to get in touch with them to see what they do when they’re under attack, which is a lot of the time.  Jim worries about the IRS because they still question whether we ought to be paying taxes, even with our tax exempt.

What the IRS doesn’t understand is that the money we're trusted with was earned by the people, and it has already been taxed.  We just take care of it for them.  That’s the principle behind any church.  The IRS keeps sniffing around anyway for some reason. 

They try to pull the same thing with the Scientologists, so now Gene (that’s our assistant pastor) and Vaughn (that’s their assistant pastor) are meeting to talk about how they handle it, with me doing the research and the backup.  We’ve all got to stick together, so it’s good to have the Scientologists to turn to, even though some of the stuff they believe is just pure crazy.  They think that if you hold onto two tin cans wired together and plug them in to a meter, all your bad memories will be blown away and you’ll be healed, or something like it.  They are nuts.  But they do charge a lot of money to get wired, or audited, as they call it.

Most people give us 25% of their pay.  The ones who are full time Temple, if they still have jobs, give us their whole paycheck.  Then we pay for everything for them, trips to the dentist, food, clothing, give them a roof over their heads.  They get an allowance, five dollars a week.  And like I said, that money has already been taxed.  But the IRS doesn’t see it that way. 

The people trust us with their money for the good of the community, so one day we can become self-sustaining and not have to send people off to jobs in the world any more.  They don’t give us their money so we can hand it over to the government.  So we don’t.

November 29, 1972

Jim is still tied up in knots over this Kinsolving guy.  He’s the reporter with the Examiner.  Even though his stories were more than a month ago, it just doesn’t go away.  Mildred, the little girl Tim helped to get married without her mother’s permission, has really turned into a PR problem, also because she tithed her welfare check to the Temple.  And then her mother kicked up a fuss about her being underage. 

Kinsolving made it look in his articles like the girl was forced to give us her check.  Because Tim is the Assistant DA, and a member of the Temple, this reporter is trying to make it look like an inside job or something, the fact that he helped her get her marriage license, and then that she signed over her check.  Like it’s some kind of conspiracy.  But Tim has a right to be a member of whatever church he wants, and still do his job.  And any church expects its members to give part of their income.  But most important, Mildred is safer in the Temple community than she ever was at home. 

Now people in town are starting to harass us and tell tales out of context, about all sorts of things, to the press. 

Here’s an example.  We’ve had people blow everyday discipline that Jim uses way out of proportion.  This started with one boy who didn’t feel like eating his dinner at the survival camp and complained to his mother because Jim made him eat it anyway.  It is true that he made him eat it two or three times - ha.  But seriously, why can’t people understand what we’re trying to do?  You can’t run a community without discipline.  Sure, Jim’s tough.  But that’s why all these other church communities are falling apart - no discipline. 

If someone in the Temple community gets out of line or gets lazy, there is hell to pay.  I don’t care how old you are, you’ll get a beating or worse, and you’ll have welts to show for it.  On Wednesday nights we have catharsis.  That’s when Father will call someone who has stepped out of bounds up to the front of the church and anyone could be ordered to spank them or kick them, depending on what they did. 

For instance, if you commit a sexual sin, like having sex that is not blessed by Father for the good of the community, then Father will pay the person back in kind – they’ll have some kind of sexual consequence.  Like this girl who tried to throw herself at him in a meeting one day.  She was made to take off all her clothes in front of everybody right there in the meeting, and then she was told what was and wasn’t sexy about her, to be throwing it at Father like that.  And Jim was there for all of it, so she knew that he was in control.  That’s how you keep discipline, one Father at the head of the family.

It’s good to get all this off my chest, just to stand back and see it in writing.  But I have to spend less time at it from now on, because I have a lot of work to do.  My responsibilities are huge and getting bigger every day.  So peace – see you later.

December 2, 1972

I think we’ve finally washed our hands clean in the Maxine Harpe situation.  We really thought she would be a good member when Father hand-picked her and sent Randolph in to work his magic.  That woman had no trouble taking her kids and leaving her no-good husband for Randolph, that’s for sure.  But she turned out to be a time bomb.  Still, we contained the situation really well, I thought. 

After Randolph broke off his relationship with her, the melt down she had went out of control, way far out.  But we had the situation in hand by then, with a few of her welfare department caseworkers on our team, and Tim as her attorney.  There was no way she was going to keep that divorce settlement, or keep Jim Randolph either.  Her trouble is that she just couldn’t trust and let Father take care of all her needs, like he would have done.  She had to go crying to the welfare department and making a stink so big everybody could hear it. 

That damn Baptist preacher Taylor thought calling the Attorney General was going to stop us from doing what we had to do.  But these people just don’t know who they’re dealing with.  Jim Jones goes high up.  They confiscated Taylor’s notes as soon as he got to the State Department.  Father and his Temple are a force for good that cannot be stopped.  How can we take care of the people if they don’t trust us with what they have?  Well, Maxine has to trust us with what she has now, since she’s dead.

Kinsolving had tried to mess with us on this one too.  But we sent two busloads to picket the newspaper office the day after he ran his story.  He was much quieter after that.  

The worst, though, is that Tim finally had to turn over all of our financial records to the paper after Kinsolving’s assistant saw the .357 magnum our guard was carrying and got a picture of it.  It would be like him to make something of that, too, so I guess Tim had to do what he had to do.  When the guy asked Debbie for the records, she told him absolutely not, but Tim felt he had to overrule her.  I guess the attorney knows best.

People have to understand that we’re trying to run a community where everyone is safe and free, and you can’t do that without some kind of order.  If we didn’t have a few arms, we would never be able to load buses full of people and bring them up here and guarantee peoples’ safety.  And we need arms to keep the community buildings safe at night, for the people who live here.  Every night we lock down and the fence is guarded.  This is an extremely right wing, racist community up here in the Valley, and there are a lot of hunters up here, and a lot of our people are black, like I said.  They know we’re socialists, and they hate us for it, and we’re not going to take any chances with our people’s lives.  But we’re still basically non-violent.  Jim has a friend who takes care of the arms.  He runs them into the city through Ray, who manages a little market on Russian Hill, among other things, and is always there for Jim whenever he needs anything “special” done.

With the new San Francisco Temple doing so well, I know we’re going to have to move our people out of Redwood Valley at some point.  There are just too many racists in this neck of the woods.  And Jim has lots of friends in the city.  The paper’s put a wrap on Kinsolving since Jim has worked with a few of his contacts, and the picketing after the Harpe story helped.  Herb Caen ran a nice column about Jim not long after that.  

So I think that’s what we’ll probably have to do, especially now that we’re working so hard on the overseas project.  That’s going to mean a lot of travel in and out of the country for me.  It’s time I learned another language besides English.  I talked to Jim about enrolling at Cal in the fall to learn French, and he’s OK with it.

This was a long one, but I’ve got a lot on my mind this week, and, like always, it was good to get that off my chest.  It’s three am, so I’d better lie down a while or I’ll be good for nothing in the morning. 

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