Kool-Aid® got a bad reputation in November, 1978, when Jim Jones (a Hoosier in case readers were unaware of the fact) exhorted (or threatened at gunpoint) his followers in Jonestown to drink from vats a brew of powdered soft drink flavoring agent laced with potassium cyanide. To accuse someone or group of people as having been drinking the Kool-Aid® has come to mean those people blindly follow a view or position despite catastrophic consequences. However, it is easier to accuse someone of having “drunk the Kool-Aid®” than to accuse the person of having “drunk a brew of powdered soft drink flavoring laced with potassium cyanide.”
Lassitude gives forth quicky lines.
In no way do I imply the Jonestown debacle was humorous. Over nine hundred people died there. As I recall, three alumni of my alma mater, DePauw University, had bought into Jones’s gig and hooked down refreshments. (Four alumni of DePauw’s rival, a school in Crawfordsville, were amongst those who perished, more both in total numbers and as a percentage of alumni than DePauw.)
A fascination with beverages and leaders’ behavior has deep historical roots. President Abraham Lincoln is supposed to have said, when informed of Ulysses S. Grant’s proclivity for consumption of distilled spirits, “If I knew what he drinks, I’d buy every one of my generals a barrel.” The quote appears to be myth. Lincoln denied having said such a thing. Some 150 years later, variations of the quote remain with us.
President Nixon’s War on Drugs—as ill-conceived a strategic concept as charges by mounted cavalry, in World War I, against machine gun emplacements—gave rise to the question, “What is he (or she) on?” The implication was a person’s otherwise rational thought processes had been disturbed by drugs. Of course, that was in the 1970s. How else could one explain Screaming Yellow Zonkers®, Pet Rocks®, or the rock group Uriah Heep than use of drugs? In the 1980s, the drug thing morphed into speculation as to whether the speaker was “on crack.” “Crack” gave way to meth. The difference between the two being bad dental hygiene. Now that meth is more cheaply manufactured in Mexico—the country, not the Miami County, Indiana, town—and the price of heroin has dropped precipitously, I suppose people will speculate as to what someone has “shot up.”
Unfortunately, HIV cases have begun to rise. Scott County has garnered publicity from the spike—I guess that is a pun—in HIV numbers, attributed to people sharing needles to inject the product of the Papaver somniferum, also known as the opium poppy. In a surprisingly enlightened move, Governor Mike Pence issued an executive order to provide clean needles to persons in Scott County. That is a good first step. Other steps would include legalization of drugs, regulating sale of drugs through government-operated stores, release from prison of persons convicted solely on drug offenses, and expungement of those persons’ criminal records. I do not see those last things happening. Privatized penal systems derive profits from large numbers of people convicted of crimes. My bad—for which I apologize.
Someone might accuse me of having consumed a brew of powdered soft drink flavoring agent laced with potassium cyanide. I would rather have received a barrel of the booze ascribed to Lincoln. I would not have partaken of it. However, I would have sold it and purchased the domestic, bottled beer of which I am fond. We should forsake maligning otherwise benign beverages and state, instead, the reasons for our criticism of the person whose views we find in error. It’s just so much easier to say the person drank the Kool-Aid®, even though Kool-Aid® has nothing to do with it.
The truth of what is argued is lost behind a metaphor the premises of which are flawed. And the point of a metaphor, I thought, was its accuracy to describe a situation. In otherwords, the metaphor is supposed to be accurate and thus truthful.
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