His Tragedy Gives Me Hope

I know this guy.  A really wonderful guy.  He’s kind and compassionate.  I’ve never seen him angry.  Of course he is a vendor with whom I interact in a professional capacity, but I feel as though, I’ve known him and worked with him long enough that he’s more than just a vendor to me.  He is a friend and as a friend seeing him angry wouldn’t be completely unreasonable.  Yet it doesn’t happen. He’s always positive and upbeat.  He’s always encouraging and supportive.  He’s diplomatic and charismatic.  He’s always very peaceful and I really enjoy dealing with him.

You might wonder why this seems so incredible to me.  Why is it so noteworthy?  You see, my friend has every right and reason to be completely messed up.  No one could blame him if he was a miserable, unlikeable, pitiful excuse for a man.  He suffered greatly in his early days, both due to his environment and directly at his father’s hands.  And later when the world learned of his experience, no one could have faulted him for having been affected by it.

You see, my friend isn’t just any man.  He isn’t just any formerly abused child.  He’s the son of a psychopath.  My friend’s father was a very disturbed, evil man, who manipulated hundreds of people and is directly responsible for one of the most infamous and horrific mass murders of my lifetime.  My friend is the only living biological son of The Reverend Jim Jones and his wife Marceline.

With a name as generic as Jones, you’d never imagine that my friend could possibly be the son of such a sick individual.  I’m only aware of it because a former co-worker, big on over-sharing, told me about my friends history one day several years ago around this time.  Yesterday was anniversary of the massacre that took the lives of over nine hundred members of “The Peoples Temple.”  If you don’t know the story, You can find out a little bit here and here.  I’m not going to recount it in this forum.  The truth is, I wouldn’t have known anything about it if it weren’t for my mouthy co-worker, but as a person who is fascinated with disaster and destruction I couldn’t help but do some research afterward.  Like most people I’d heard the various catch phrases about “the Kool-Aid” (which it was not) but I didn’t know the story, and never before that day was it so personal.

Thirty years ago this week, the disaster took place.  The things I’ve read, and the television shows I’ve seen about the event are chilling to say the least.  I can only imagine what it must have been like in the days and weeks after the mass murder for my friend, (I can’t call what happened suicide.)  Knowing that he had survived this tragedy when so many innocent people died at his father’s proverbial hand, I can only imagine the survivor’s guilt that he must have suffered.  Likewise, I can only imagine the years of therapy it must have taken for him to become the man he is today.

In preparing to write this post today, I did a little internet search for information and I came upon a story about my friend and his appearance in, but disinterest in watching, a documentary type special, a couple years ago, about the Jonestown Massacre.  While I have read stories in the past about my friends life, I happened across this and was, nonetheless surprised:

The younger Jones concedes he went through hell and back trying to come to terms with his ordeal. “I’ve finally found a little peace.”

That peace wasn’t in place at Jonestown. “Then I was always enraged with my father, and I showed it openly,” he says.

“There were even times when we squared off in front of everybody at the Temple, with guns pointed at each others heads,” Jones says.

“But did I help anything? No, I really think I made it worse. I increased the fear and dread in the community. My rebellion was all about making him look wrong. There was little about standing up for the people in the community. I could no longer rationalize the sickness and the wrong of what he was doing, yet I rebelled from the safety of royalty.”

…with guns pointed at each others heads.”

It’s hard for me to imagine my friend holding a gun, let alone, pointing it someone’s head.  Especially at his own father’s head.  How tragic in it’s own right that such a thing should happen.  I’ve never discussed my friend’s father with him.  Part of me would very much like to.  I have many questions that go unanswered, but I just can’t help feeling like, perhaps he doesn’t want to talk about him.  Perhaps, he shares his story and does his interviews with news outlets out of some sense of obligation or responsibility but doesn’t desire to talk about it with people with whom he has a personal relationship.  I can imagine he’s got some incredible, exciting stories to tell.  If it weren’t such a tragic and disturbing true story, I would very much like to hear (or read) them.  But they’re surely not incredible, exciting stories to him.  They are the stuff of his tumultuous early years which is very likely better left buried.

Often, I have thought about what it must have been like for my friend, to grow up in such an environment.  I know, from reading my friends own writings on-line, that Jim Jones was a very disturbed and often violent father.  I know that he was addicted to drugs and carried on in a sexual manner, not appropriate for a father or a husband, and certainly not for a Pastor.  I know that my friend had a miserable childhood that included, among other things, multiple attempts at suicide by over-dosing on his father’s drugs.  I think about these things and I think, “Man!  What am I moping about?  My life was a walk in a park compared to that.”  And then I found this.

The other night, I watched the MSNBC special presentation, Witness to Jonestown.  I wish I could remember more specifics, but as I was watching this show and my mind was drifting on and off of what I was seeing and hearing, I was suddenly snapped back to the reality of the show when I heard a woman say, “You weren’t allowed to disagree.  You weren’t allowed to have a different opinion.”  I have expressed that very sentiment, almost word for word many times, in reference to growing up in Vengeful Mother‘s home.  And today I read the brief article “A cult is like abusive relationships…  You are trapped like a caged animal.”  The interview with Deborah Layton, a survivor of Jonestown, read, in a lot of ways, like a description of my own childhood as I was being raised by VM:

“…plays on people’s insecurities and gives them a sense of order in the world…

“You find a niche… where everything is black and white, where this way is good and the other way is bad.”

The logical consequence of this thinking, however, is that any deviation from the cult leader’s [Vengeful Mother‘s] thinking is automatically condemned. Members’ individuality is suppressed and subject to fear and suspicion…  “It’s an abusive relationship…you can’t extricate yourself without hurting yourself or your family. You are like a caged animal.”

There is a frightening and painful similarity between the way Vengeful Mother controlled me (and in many ways, still does) and how someone like Jim Jones controls the members of his Cult.

Come to think of it, my amazement at my friends ability to heal from his tragic early days also gives me hope for my own future.  Encouragement that I can and will find peace in my own life without the bonds of my previous existence holding me down, preventing me from finding a place in this world where I can fit in and be happy, healthy and whole.

I Am Still a Heba Hate-a

I have a problem.  An addiction actually.  I’ve tried to deny it for a long time, but it seems clear that I can’t pretend any more…

Hello, my name is Kevin and I’m a TV-aholic.  I’ve tried to cut back.  I’ve tried to stop watching, but they just keep making new and better shows that grab my attention and that I have to check out and then they turn out to be good and I keep watching them.  Every Summer, I swear that I’m not going to take on any new programs.  I’m not going to add to my number of hours of programming.  And every year I fail.

Four years ago, Green M&M and I moved into a new apartment that didn’t get standard cable service.  The company that did provide service, was only selling DirecTV though a cable connection and for a lot more money.  So we decided to sign up directly with DirecTV and cut out the middleman.  At the time that I was setting up our service they were running a special.  Receivers and dish for up to four rooms absolutely free with a two year contract.  But even more importantly to me, I could upgrade one of those receivers to a Tivo receiver for only $99.00.

I had heard about but had never experienced the wonder that is the Tivo.  Pause and rewind live TV?  Digitally record hours of television without having to worry about tapes and timer settings?  Listening to the b-doop, B-doop, B-DOOP, as I fast forward over the commercials I’d NEVER have to watch again?  What’s not to love!?!  Oh and did I mention that this receiver could record two separate shows at the same time?  My television viewing opportunities were endless! Heaven really is a place on earth!  Thank you Belinda Carlisle!

It is because of this perfection in a box that I never watch TV shows while they’re airing.  First, I always have a backlog of TV shows to watch, not a huge backlog, but I’m usually watching yesterday’s programming today, and today’s programming tomorrow.  Second, if I watched TV shows while they were on, I couldn’t enjoy the b-doop, B-doop, B-DOOP, because I’d have no choice but to watch the fucking commercials!  As a result, I know that I am a day behind on the Heba hating bandwagon but I couldn’t not join in on the Heba hate!

Unsvelt Girl who Runs is a member on the forums on the Runner’s World Website and apparently her gaggle of friends there had all kinds of venom to spew about Heba yesterday after Tuesday nights broadcast of The Biggest Loser.  Yesterday afternoon a chat window popped up on my computer screen and it was she, asking, “What’s up with Heba?”  I of course had no idea of what she spoke.  But I told her what I knew and sent her the link to my previous Heba hating blog post.  After that, I was jonesing to get home and turn on my beloved DVR and find out what kind of evil, beastly shit she pulled this week.

I wasn’t disappointed.  Well, I was disappointed.  I’m always disappointed to see people make idiots of themselves on National Television…  Or Local Television…  Or one on one for that matter.  But I got the information I was seeking and I don’t guess I can ask for much more than that.

So, if you even care about such things, I’m sure you can imagine how sad it was for Phil to come back to his room on The Biggest Loser Campus last week to find that Amy P., his wife, had in fact been eliminated and sent home.  There he was, along with the rest of the black team, having a quiet, somber dinner, when in marches the Blue Team (read: Gang) to intrude on their solace and make a scene about the perceived evil deeds of one Phil P.

“I hear you’re still saying hateful things about me.  I want to know why?”  Said the Evil War Lord, Heba.

But as if that weren’t bad enough, the other three Blue Team roughians– er, members, Brady, Vicky and Amy C. all joined in.  On a side note.  I thought there was hope for Amy C.  I thought how unfortunate that she got stuck with this bad crowd.  Wouldn’t it be poetic justice if one by one the evil three got sent home and here was Amy C., left behind to make something of herself and her experience.  Alas, ’twas not to be.

So Phil freely admitted that he approached Brady about forming an alliance to send Heba home.  He also pointed out that it was purely game play and that’s what the show is about.  He has never been shown saying anything derogatory about her.

Heba was on a rant about how he’s always been hateful to her and treated her so badly and she just can’t understand why (Gee, I wonder) and how she had never done anything to him.

But here’s the best part.  She sat there, looked Phil in the eyes and said, “I just want you to know that I forgive you.  I’m the bigger person and I forgive you.  You have to live with what you’ve done.”  Um…  Earth to Heba…  the moment you say, “I’m the bigger person” you lost all hope of being the bigger person.

The most pathetic part of this whole thing, to me, is this.  Heba and her husband came on the show this season because they’re newly weds and they want to start a family in a couple years and she wants to make sure she’s healthy enough to have a baby.  I can only feel sorry for any unfortunate child, cursed enough to have such a horrible person for a mother.  This is going to sound bad, but I hope she’s barren and I hope she can’t ever afford – or is never approved for – adoption.  People like her should not be allowed to procreate.

Last night, I reached a conclusion.  No matter who ultimately loses the highest percentage of their body weight and wins the show, Heba is now and will always THE BIGGEST LOSER.

I Have-a the Hate-a for Heba

OK, so I don’t watch a lot of “Reality TV”.  I think it’s lame and contrived and the people on them usually suck.  All the “game play” that’s involved and the manipulation just pushes all the wrong buttons with me and makes me angry and hate the people involved.

There are a handful of these “Reality TV” shows I do like though.  Most of them are shows that do not involve this type of manipulation.  For instance:

DANCING WITH THE STARS

I love Dancing with the Stars!  I admit that when the show first started 4 years ago I thought it was going to be a ridiculous, lame show.  Really, who wants to watch a bunch of B-list celebrities and has-beens make idiots of themselves and dance (badly) for however many weeks.  I was so not going to watch it.  And then I found out that Kelly Monaco was going to be one of the contestants.  I used to like General Hospital.  I used to like her character on General Hospital.  I wanted to see how she would do and maybe support her.  She was terrible!  At first.  I was really disappointed to see that she wasn’t any better than she was.  But the show was more interesting than I anticipated, and the musical selections, while not always particularly fitting to the dance style, were interesting, and on more than a few occasions I have been reminded of old music that I liked and wanted to have on my iPod.  And then Kelly impressed me.

She was genuinely terrible in the first episode.  Looking back, I can’t remember if she really was worse than Trista Sutter or not, but somehow she survived the first elimination.  She also showed that she would take the show more seriously.  She actually listened to the judges critiques.  She worked on the things they asked her to work on and she showed she could put in the work and improve.  She won the first perfect score of the series and ultimately, she was the first Dancing with the Stars champion, and in my opinion, well deservedly.  John O’Hurley, however was a perfect example of what I hate about so many reality shows.  He was a sore loser.  Plain and simple.

Over the years the celebrities that have been on Dancing with the Starts have covered the gamut.  There are definitely a plethora of B-list celebrities and has-beens, but there are also some contestants who really are quite talented.  I’ll never forget Stacey Keibler and her unexpected natural talent.  I’ll also never forget how she threw the competition away in the finals because of an injured ankle.  Not that I don’t think Drew Lachey deserved to win but it was a real competition up until that point.

THE MOLE

The Mole was another example of an excellent “Reality TV” show.  I was late to that party, as it was one of the first round of these shows and I was staunchly opposed to jumping on the “Reality TV” band wagon.  But some way through the first season it got my attention and I decided that I was interested in checking it out for the second season.  (The fact that Anderson Cooper was the host didn’t hurt any either!)  Then of course it ended, until this past year when it was brought back and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Missed Mr. C. quite a bit though.

I like The Mole, because it’s interactive, in that the viewers get to try and guess who the Mole is, along with the players.  But I also like that the contestants can’t directly sabotage each other in the game.  Players are eliminated based on their scores on a test each week, which is based on things they may or may not have observed over the course of the competition.  If they guess correctly who the mole is, they stay in the game.  The one person who gets the lowest score on the test goes home, and it’s not because someone betrayed them or because they were less conniving than others, it’s because they made the wrong guess about who they thought the mole was.

THE BIGGEST LOSER

I only started watching this show recently, and only because I like Alison Sweeney.  I wanted to see how she did as a host.  The idea of watching a “Reality TV” show about a bunch of fat people who feel sorry for themselves and lose a bunch of weight in an unnatural amount of time and only because they have nothing to do with their time but work out for hours a day everyday with supervision for four months, was of no interest to me.  I never imagined a show like that would work and I wasn’t about to throw away hours of my time watching it.

The show, once I did start to watch it really grabbed my attention, which was unexpected.  It’s a really emotional experience for me in a number of ways.  As an overweight man, it’s emotional for me to see these unhappy people get this once in a lifetime opportunity to change their lives for the better.  To see the nearly miraculous transformations that they undergo, is, I’ll be honest, a little jealousy inducing.  Especially when you consider the fact that while I probably wouldn’t really ever go on such a show, they wouldn’t have me if I wanted to.  I’m not fat enough!

My first season to watch this show was the season when Jillian Michaels came back.  I thought she was horrible.  I thought she was harsh and unkind and way too hard on her players.  By the same token, I was absolutely in love with Bob Harper.  He’s beautiful.  I love his ink.  He’s got that sexy slightly southern accent.  And the shot in the show’s opening of him on the balance beam with all his weight on his hands with his feet out to the side always starts a little party in my pants.

Now, however, many seasons later, my opinions have changed.  I still think Bob is sexy and I wouldn’t kick him outta my bed, but I also think he’s too into the game play aspect of the show and not enough focused on the players.  Jillian, on the other hand has shown several times over, that she wants her team members to succeed.  She doesn’t care about the game.  She wants every one of her team members to do the best they can, to make a change for the better and to be the happiest people each of them can be.  Jillian’s Mother is a therapist and it’s clear that Jillian has either been through therapy herself, or she’s paid attention to her mother’s wisdom.

This season is only 6 weeks in and already she’s helped Michelle and Renee (mostly Michelle) to mend their relationship.  Renee is Michelle’s mother, and for reasons that have not been revealed, Renee walked out on Michelle’s father and took two of the three daughters with her, while Michelle was away in college.  Michelle felt abandoned and betrayed, and she hadn’t interacted with her mother for several years before coming on the show.  Michelle was ready to pack her bags and leave because she felt she was betraying her father by being there and by working on her relationship with Renee.  Jillian helped her work through that.

This season is only 6 weeks in and already she’s helped Colleen begin to overcome her self doubt and her fear of heights.  This week she took her team to a ropes course and she helped Colleen to overcome her fears and climb the 20 foot pole to the platform at the top and jump off.

I don’t mean to over inflate Jillian’s saintliness (in this same episode she said, “In this weeks ‘last chance workout’ I want to make someone throw up.” with a wicked smile on her face.) But she’s demonstrated that she genuinely cares about her contestants.  She wants the best for them.  She wants them each to accomplish as much as they can while on The Biggest Loser Campus.  I was right.  Jillian is harsh and mean and hard on her players…  and they usually love her for it.  I could use a little Jillian in my own life from time to time.

I like The Biggest Loser because the elimination is only partially based on popularity or game play (usually).  The elimination starts with the weigh-in (which needs to be revamped but that’s another subject entirely) by finding out which team (first and then two individuals later) has the lesser percentage of weight loss for the week.  Then the members of that team must decide whom to eliminate.  Ideally the decision is based on a thoughtful consideration between “who is my biggest threat” and “who can help keep us from coming back to elimination next week.”  Usually, that’s how it seems to go down…

Not this week.

This leads me back to the title of this post.  There is a player on this season of The Biggest Loser named Heba.  Heba is evil and despicable and must be destroyed.  I pray that her comeuppance is coming!

It started last week or the week before when the shows challenge was a “temptation” challenge.  The challenge was simple.  The players were lead into a room that was piled high with all the things they should not be eating.  Brownies and Reese’s and Krispy Kremes.  They brought them into the room, showed them the food, explained the game to them and then turned the lights off.  Ali (Alison Sweeney) donned a pair of night vision goggles so that she could see what was happening and the rest of them were in complete darkness.  The deal was that the player who ate the most calories in this challenge would get to choose which players would go on which team and be with which trainer.  (This season was “Biggest Loser Families” and two of the families had already had one member sent home.  They started out as teams of two and they were now going to be restructured to the traditional Blue team and Black team.)

Almost as soon as the lights were turned out, Heba piped up and suggested that she was “willing to take the hit” and she’d eat A doughnut and then she’d keep the teams as is, with the trainers they’d already been working with.  She felt like she had to stay with Bob Harper and she was willing to do whatever it took to make it happen.  The challenge was for 10 minutes and there was quite a bit of decent in the group about whether or not they were willing to put their trust in Heba and let it go down that way.  I won’t bore you with the details.  If you care, you probably saw it.  But the point is, Heba won the challenge and got to determine the teams, but not before being pissed off at one of the other players, Phil.

She was given one hour to decide how she wanted to align the teams and in the end she kept herself on Bob’s team, along with a married couple, Vicky and Brady who she had befriended.  She essentially aligned the teams the way the were before, with the exception of Phil.  She put him on Jillian’s team while keeping his wife, Amy P.,  on Bob’s team.  She presented it, in the room, almost believably – but not quite, that she felt it was the only fair thing to do, because their were only two men left in the game and she had put one on each team.  The problem is, every one saw through it, and in her “confessional” interview, she made comments along the lines of “if you mess with me…”  She made it clear that she was going to split Phil and Amy P. up just to hurt the guy and she made it clear that she was going to put him on the other team so she wouldn’t have to deal with him anymore.

This week, Heba’s team was the lesser team and had to eliminate someone.  Unfortunately, Amy P. fell short and the team eliminated her.  Vicky and Brady both said that they were eliminating her because they believed her absence from the campus would weaken Phil, and strengthen their chances.  I hated them in that moment for being so petty and childish, but at least they were honest about their reasons.  Heba was the last to reveal her vote and she claimed that she “struggled” with her decision between two players, but in the end she voted for Amy P. because Amy P. posed a bigger threat to her.  REALLY!?!  Amy P. posed a bigger threat than Brady, the 280 pound man?  Yeah, uh huh!  I’m buying it.  Got any swamp land you want to sell me with that?

You may be wondering why I have some much vitriol about this, and to be honest, I wonder too.  The only thing I can figure is this.  Phil and Amy P. are good people.  They have a difficult life having three relatively young kids, one of whom is autistic.  They recognized that they needed help to make this goal happen and when they got to the Biggest Loser Campus they worked hard.  They have shown caring and concern for their fellow contestants and have shown that they deserve to be there.

Heba has been evil and vindictive since arriving and has shown that she revels in those characteristics.  She’s proud of herself and her behavior and thinks she deserves to be rewarded for it.  I find myself hating her, and I just hope and pray that in the very near future, something will happen in the game to make it possible for her to be eliminated and that when she is, it is with just as much ceremony and piousness as she has shown.

I recognize that this situation draws a parallel with my own real life circumstances and that’s why it hits me so hard, but I have real difficulty with people who manipulate and belittle other’s to get there way and I hate it with the red hot passion of a thousand firey suns when evil triumphs over good.  It happens way too much in this world and I wish I could make it stop!

I Have an Evil Confession to Make

There is a small part of me that hopes that John McCain win’s in November, just so I can make snide comments about “President Comb-Over.”