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Cleopatra7

Remembering Christine Miller: A Heroine of Jonestown

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Cleopatra7

Today is the 38th anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre, which claimed 918 lives, most of whom were black women and children. Before 9/11, Jonestown was the largest single loss of American life that was not related to a natural disaster. As horrible as this incident was, I want to highlight a woman who is generally overlooked by books and documentaries on Jonestown, and was one of the few unambiguous heroes on that day. Christine Miller was a black senior citizen and the only person we know of who fought against the destruction of Jonestown on November 18, 1978. Here are some articles about her:

http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=32381

http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=30294

http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=31907

On the infamous "death tape" that you can find online, Miller can be heard verbally sparring with Jones about the folly of destroying the community they worked so hard to build, using past statements Jones himself had made about relocating Jonestown to Russia and the recklessness of suicide to bolster her argument:

Quote

Christine: Not that I’m afraid to die …

Jones: I don’t think you are … .

Christine: By no means …

Jones: I don’t think you are …

Christine: But I look at all the babies and I think they deserve to live …

Jones: I agree …

Christine: You know …

Jones: But also they deserve … what’s more they deserve peace.

Christine: We all came here for peace …

Jones: And we, have we had it?
Christine and crowd: No …

Jones: I tried to give it to you. I’ve laid down my life, practically, I’ve practically died every day to give you peace … and you still not have any peace. You look better than I’ve seen you in a long while, but it’s still not the kind of peace that I want to give you. The person’s a fool who continues to say that you’re a winner when you’re a loser .. Win one, lose two…. What? I didn’t hear you, ma’am, you have to speak up … That’s a sweet thought, who said that? … Come on up and speak it again, honey. Stand up and say it about (inaudible) … love … (inaudible) is taking off, no plane is taking off… It’s suicide. They have done it… Stoen has done it but somebody ought to live… somebody… can they talk… can they not talk to San Francisco to see that Stoen does not get by with this infamy, with this infamy? He has done the thing he wanted to do, to have us destroyed.

Christine: When you, when you, when we destroy ourselves, we’re defeated… you are saying, “Let the enemy defeat us.”

http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=29081 (transcript of the "Death Tape")

Eventually, Miller was shouted down by the other members of Jonestown, and she would die with the rest of them. A handful of eyewitnesses that managed to escape later claimed that Miller was held down and injected with cyanide by force. In fact, injection marks were found on a number of the bodies found at Jonestown, which would indicate that many residents did not willingly "drink the Kool-Aid." However, the forensic investigation into Jonestown was performed so shoddily that we will probably never know the truth (this article delves into how the bodies of those who died at Jonestown and the families that were left behind were treated disrespectfully by the US government: http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=16585).

In any case, I think Miller is an example of standing up for what's right, even in the face of certain death and community disapproval. It's quite possible that Miller spoke for many Jonestown residents who didn't want to die, but were too afraid to go against the collective will. If the "death tape" is any indication, it doesn't seem like anyone else vocally spoke out against Jones' claim that killing the children was the only way to save them. Even if Miller died ignominiously in the jungle as a "Kool-Aid drinker," she at least died trying to save the members of Jonestown who couldn't speak for themselves.

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Tiny Bubbles

Although I'd certainly heard of this cult and its awful end, I'd never heard of Christine Miller and her efforts that day. 

What a strong person she must have been. Thank you for bringing her to our attention, @Cleopatra7.  We will carry her in our hearts today. 

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Happy
PennySycamore

@Cleopatra7, thanks for remembering Christine today.  

I can still recall that we were up at Bob's parents' house for Thanksgiving when we heard about Jonestown.  It certainly cast a pall over the holiday to know that all those people, including Congressman Leo Ryan,  and others had died. 

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Giddy
Carm_88

Wow @Cleopatra7 I had never heard of Christine Miller either, I always believed that there was little dissent in Jonestown. All those people...:pb_sad:

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Meh
smittykins

I have heard that many were forcibly injected or shot. :my_sad:

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Howl

Such a painful memory.  I remember hearing about it when I got home from a trip to Mexico; it is one of the most shocking pieces of news that I've heard in my lifetime. 

Christine sounds like a strong and brave woman caught in the web of insanity that was Jim Jones. 

Edited by Howl

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Cleopatra7
11 minutes ago, Howl said:

Such a painful memory.  I remember hearing about it when I got home from a trip to Mexico; it is one of the most shocking pieces of news that I've heard in my lifetime. 

Christine sounds like a strong and brave woman caught in the web of insanity that was Jim Jones. 

Christine Miller and the other senior citizens in People's Temple/Jonestown received tangible benefits from their membership. They received free housing, healthcare, and were able to participate in an intergenerational community. Jones painted himself as the heir to the black radical tradition, despite being white, and that resonated with a lot of people. If you listen to the "death tape" and other recordings from PT/Jonestown, you'll see how often Jones emphasizes the need to treat seniors with respect. However, as with the children, Jones and his inner circle concluded that killing the seniors was the only way to save them. Given the events of the past week and a half, I'm beginning to see why so many blacks were attracted to the idea of abandoning the US to start a community that promised racial justice, at least in theory.

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Spent
Dreadcrumbs

I've never been able to forget her pleading, but I didn't know her name up until today. I wish that wasn't such an unsurprising thing. :tw_dissapointed:

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