Friday, January 22, 2016

A Review of Ronald Reagan (The American Presidents Series #40)

In one way, Reagan isn't hard to understand at all: he knew what he believed, meant what he said, and made clear what he intended to do.  He didn't suffer from anxiety or self-doubt.~Jacob Weisberg
Ronald Reagan by Jacob Weisberg is the 4th book on Reagan that I've read so far.  I was offered a free copy of the book if I would review it.  Since, I love to read biographies on the presidents and first ladies, I was more than happy to review the book.

It is part of The American Presidents series, which says, "It is the aim of the American Presidents series to present the grand panorama of our chief executives in volumes compact enough for the busy reader, lucid enough for the student, authoritative enough for the scholar."  

I think this book definitely accomplishes the above objectives.  It does a fairly good job of giving a concise view of Reagan as a person and as a president.

I did a 3 part series on this blog entitled, Why I Love Ronald Reagan, so I will admit that I'm a little biased in his favor.  That said, I felt like Weisberg's liberal bias did come through at times.

While giving Reagan credit for some things, he seems to hold the elitist view that many have had for him that he wasn't overly smart and was lacking depth.  The following quote is a perfect example, "Reagan's televised address, which he rewrote heavily himself, displayed both his limitations as a thinker and his tremendous gifts as a communicator."

This wouldn't be the first book on Ronald Reagan that I would recommend, but I would recommend it for those who want a nice, short biography that gives a good overview of his life.

Friday, January 01, 2016

A Review of Raven and My Study of Jonestown

-The Jonestown massacre on November 18,1978 has always been a topic of interest to me.  I have watched documentaries and read books on it over the years.

-After I read Leslie Wagner-Wilson's book, Slavery of Faith, I knew I needed to read a comprehensive book about Jonestown.

-Tim Reiterman's book is described as, "the seminal book on the story of Jonestown."  To say it is the seminal book is an understatement.  Everything you'd ever want to know about Jim Jones, The People's Temple and Jonestown are in the 600 plus pages.

-Tim Reiterman was a journalist who wrote about Jim Jones and The People's Temple.  He wanted to visit Jonestown to write about it, but didn't get a chance until Congressman Leo Ryan's trip in November of 1978.

-When leaving Jonestown, Congressman Ryan and 3 others were shot and killed on the airstrip by Larry Layton and other Jones loyalists.  Reiterman was one of many who were shot, but only injured.  They had to wait till the next morning for rescue.

-Reiterman not only reported on Jonestown, but he became a part of its demise.

In his eloquent and almost biblical prose, Jones disguised his agnosticism--or atheism--and hid the fact that he was using religion for social goals.--pg. 50

While he pursued the conventional goals of an aggressive fundamentalist preacher--money and members--he also moved in new directions: toward cultlike control of his people and toward communism under the guise of Christian Communalism.--pg. 57

Step by step Jones was leading his people to the conclusion that he was a prophet.  The people trusted him and stood in awe of him; they compromised themselves by accepting his destruction of the Bible.--pg. 93 of Raven
-Jones has sometimes been described as an "evangelical preacher".  When I researched Jones, that doesn't describe him at all.  He didn't even really believe in God or Jesus, he thought he was god.  He believed in socialism and in getting people to worship him.  While still in the U.S., he supported both Democrats and Republicans so he could have power.  But he definitely allied himself with liberals who believed in socialism.

-Jones did fake healings, and all kinds of bizarre things even before he left the U.S. for Guyana.  His closest advisors and confidants knew that he was a fraud, but thought the ends justified the means when it came to their socialistic goals.

-Amazingly, once Jones had people following him, they put up with inconceivable things.  He was not only a serial adulterer, but bragged from the pulpit that he was sleeping with many different women and men.  Many of these people didn't want to voluntarily sleep with him, but felt that they had no choice because of who he was.

-He manipulated people, and got away with it, until some people started to defect.  When that happened and the media got wind of it, he moved over 1,000 of his people to the socialist country of Guyana in South America.

-When people arrived, their passports were immediately confiscated and many of them realized quickly that they had made a huge mistake in giving up their freedom.  Jones required everyone to work long hours, there wasn't much food, and they were often denied sleep.  Jonestown was an armed encampment where people weren't free to leave.

-By the time the "concerned relatives" (of some Jonestown inhabitants), Congressman Ryan and the journalists came to Jonestown, Jones had already conditioned and rehearsed mass suicide events with his people.  So when people started leaving Jonestown, and Jones realized he was losing control, he initiated the mass suicide.

-If people didn't comply, they were forced to drink the cyanide.  In the recording of the event you can hear children screaming and crying and Jones urging everyone to die with dignity.

-It is incomprehensible how brainwashed the people had to have been to comply.  Ironically, a sign at Jonestown read, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."  Jones dead body was found right underneath it.

Slavery of Faith by Leslie Wagner-Wilson
Raven by Tim Reiterman & John Jacobs
Escape from Jonestown
Jonestown: Paradise Lost
Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple