I remember moments from my childhood, but I don’t seem to remember as much as some people do. I know that some of my memories have been fuzzied by time or exaggerated retelling, but I know there’s a lot I’m missing. Tonight, I had dinner with my Aunt and Uncle. Among the many topics we covered was Wild Wild Country and I gained some clarity about why I allowed some memories to drift.
Until tonight, I hadn’t put together the time my dad was really sick when I was little and the time all the salad bars in The Dalles were spiked with salmonella.
Until tonight, I hadn’t put together why I have such a deep issue with something that happened around me from third grade through seventh grade.
My parents did a really solid job of sheltering my brother and I from the increasingly scary reality they dealt with for five years. I’m sure I didn’t want to remember why it was important not to be alone walking to or from school. I ignored the people openly watching our house. I didn’t put all of my father’s little lessons on how to be safe into the right context.
What I did remember was our only elementary school lockdown and the speculations we all had as sixth graders—we were pretty convinced the Rajneesh has returned with their guns. I have to give Mr. Mac credit at least for talking us off that ledge. I also remember that I stopped taking art classes of any kind at WOSC when they purchased some cheap trailers from what was left of the settlement outside of Antelope, Oregon while the art building was being retrofitted for earthquake safety.
I know I’m more than old enough to sit down and watch a documentary series about this on Netflix, but I totally walked away twenty minutes in when Wild Wild Country already started to seem awfully sympathetic to people who really did do some serious (and seriously intentional) damage over the course of building their “intentional community”. My dad was a confirmed name on a Rajneeshpuram hitlist because he was the publisher at The Dalles Weekly Reminder; and he was working closely with his editor to figure out exactly what was going on inside and outside of Antelope. Their peers at other local news organizations probably went through similar issues during those years.
I don’t like seeing this minimized into a simple case of “rural overreaction” or “rural intolerance”. I’ll finish watching it, but not tonight.
The biggest monsters always have human faces.