Thirty-five years after the Jonestown Massacre, there is still no memorial for the victims in San Francisco, the city most affected and most responsible for the tragedy. My piece in the San Francisco Bay Guardian today asks why, and makes the case for correcting this disgraceful omission.
The Guardian article is the polite argument. Here at the Rogue, we are less concerned with niceties. By looking the other way, San Francisco helped create the monster that was Jim Jones. The argument that nobody knew what was really going on at the Temple and therefore could not have foreseen this tragedy is only partly true—918 deaths is beyond anyone’s most macabre imagination. But San Francisco knew something malignant was going on at 1859 Geary Street. The politicians who sucked up to Jones for his support knew it, too. You didn’t have to be an insider to be in on the secret, either; all you had to do was read the newspaper.
Out of sight, out of mind seems to be San Francisco’s position now. Building a memorial, however, would not discredit San Francisco for its association with Jim Jones any more than the Oklahoma City National Memorial discredits that city for housing Timothy McVeigh. Nobody other than Jim Jones and his henchman were criminally responsible for the massacre. But just because you aren’t legally culpable doesn’t mean you don’t owe the victims and their families the bare minimum, which in this case is a solemn memorial to their lost lives.