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November 13, 2013

House of Burgess: For the last time, it's Flavor Aid

Rev. Jim Jones was far from name brand.

(Continued)

Diaz said the bloodbath — which turns 35 on Monday — rode the line between suicide and murder. “I think more of them decided to take their lives,” she said. “[But] I know a lot of people did not want to die.”

I never really liked the expression “drink the Kool-Aid” before I interviewed Diaz. After I wrote the story, though, I despised it. Sadly, others have had to learn the hard way.

“[South Bend] restaurant [Hacienda] erected billboards … including the statement, ‘We’re like a cult with better Kool-Aid,’ over a glass containing a mixed drink, as well as the phrase, ‘To die for!’” read a Feb. 21, 2011 Associated Press story. “[Hacienda] … apologized [and said the] billboards would be taken down.”

Unsurprisingly, Diaz wasn’t fond of the turn of phrase. “Oh, I hate it,” she said. “... It’s not even funny to joke about stuff like that.” Besides being insensitive, it’s incorrect: It was Flavor Aid, not Kool-Aid. Someone as greedy and sadistic as Jones would never serve his flock anything name brand.

The Flavor Aid vs. Kool-Aid divide is also an appropriate metaphor for Jones himself. Jones presented himself as a name-brand, progressive community leader, when in reality he was a devious user who drained anyone unfortunate enough to come under his influence of everything they loved.

He fooled so many people: San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, then-Assemblyman Willie Brown and first Lady Rosalynn Carter, to name just a few.

An unfortunate July 8, 1968 advertisement in the Ukiah Daily Journal signed by several prominent community members declared their support for Jones. “We deplore the unseemly words and actions of a small segment of this community and we want you and your people to know that you are not only welcome in this valley but highly respected,” it read, in part.

I’m now convinced every time someone uses the cliché “drink the Kool-Aid,” Jones is laughing from beyond the grave somewhere, his ruse intact.

Rob Burgess, Tribune night editor, may be reached by calling 765-454-8577, via email at rob.burgess@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at twitter.com/robaburg.

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