Drinking the Kool-Aid

This term has been used for the past few years, mainly in politics, as a sort of a joke. Meaning, when someone has an idea that is incredibly outrageous or ridiculous, they’ve drank the Kool-Aid. Many times you see the user jokingly say the term, often with a little smirk on their face. Honestly, this phrase makes me want to cringe. I have to wonder if those using this phrase realize what they’re saying.

If you aren’t familiar with the real meaning of this phrase, allow me to educate you, and if you have forgotten, take a moment to refresh your memory.

On November 18, 1978, 918 people died in jungles of Georgetown, Guyana.  These people were part of The Peoples Temple, headed by Jim Jones.  Jim Jones formed the People’s Temple in Indiana, in the mid 1950’s.  Jones was a socialist, and he used this philosophy in his church.   People who were part of the People’s Temple loved Jones.  In theory, it all seemed wonderful, and for a time in practice it was.  After some criticism on how his “church” was run, Jones uprooted his flock and moved everyone to Redwood Valley, California in 1965.  During the early 1970’s several more branches were opened in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The bottom began falling out of the organization after a scathing newspaper article was written in 1973, which questioned Jones leadership and what the church was really about.  Some members began to leave and family members of others began to want to know more about Jones and the organization.

Seeing this, Jones decided to move everyone to a place where he would be able to have total control over everyone and everything.  The move came in 1976, and little by little members moved to Guyana.  What started out as a dream turned into a nightmare for many.  On November 14, 1978 Congressman Leo Ryan, after receiving many calls from concerned family members, decided he would go to investigate Jonestown for himself.  He took with him some family members hoping to bring those who wanted to leave home with them, along with a reporter and cameraman.

After a few days Ryan as well as some of those who had traveled with him sensed danger and were asked by Jones to leave.  As they arrived at the airstrip they were all gunned down by members of Jones’ army.  At the same time, Jones and his more loyal followers were reading their own demise.

Contrary to popular belief, this was not a mass suicide.  Many of those people did not willingly drink the cyanide laced “Flavor-Aid”.  The adults were encouraged to give the poison to the kids first, and then themselves.  All the while being surrounded by men with rifles.  In the end, Jones died of a bullet through the head.  It’s never been confirmed whether he shot himself or someone else shot him.

33  years ago 918 people died, from drinking Flavor-Aid with cyanide and not actually what has always commonly been believed to be Kool-Aid.

So there you have it.  The origins of the overused phrase so many joyously use in order to look clever.   Next time you decide to say this, please remember where it came from and the lives lost.

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