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In November 1978, a group of true believers were led to their deaths in the forests of Guyana which is located near Venezuela on the eastern side of Latin America. Their deaths were orchestrated by a religious leader who urged his followers to commit the “’revolutionary act’ of suicide.”
These “suicides” were accomplished by drinking a flavored drink made up of Kool-Aid, cyanide and valium. This is the origination of the term we hear so often of “so and so drank the Kool-Aid” ostensibly meaning something the speaker has heard they deem as stupid and gullible.
I’ve always been offended when this statement is used whether at me or someone else. The reason: it is usually used by someone that is not listening to the other person and is wanting to cast aspersions on the first person. It is usually a bit snarky and last-ditchy, aimed at ending a difficult conversation.
When I’ve seen this expression used, it is usually in highly emotionally packed arguments. What is interesting and most seem to not know, is that the grape-flavored “Kool-Aid” was not “Kool-Aid” at all; it was grape-flavored Flavor-aid.
Although this may be a silly thing, it is indicative of a more prevalent problem. Today, in our society and our politics we are deeply divided along nearly misanthropic lines. Many times in what begins as a difference of opinion progresses to a heated discussion and then into a full-blown disagreement. Once this happens, it usually digresses into name calling and finally, someone will mention “yeah, I can see who drank the Kool-aid!” From there, it either falls into stony silence or childish charges of who did what to whom and nothing is settled.
Why and how have we allowed this to happen? When did it become the norm for each person to have the only viable opinion; to stop listening to one another and become experts on everything?
I fear it starts with our leaders. Day after day in our 24/7 ad infinitum media coverage of the world, the talking heads have made it acceptable and even preferable to mud sling and trash talk over any and everything that differs from their opinion. Sarcasm is considered a high form of humor and over-talking is the way to end a contentious conversation.
Where is the consensus? Where is the consideration for another person’s ideals, that makes a decision all the more appropriate for everyone involved? Where in the world have all the adults gone? We are like a bunch of kids on a playground with no adult supervision; a whole world of Lord of the Flies.
Like the misdirected jab “look who drank the Kool-Aid” perhaps we should stop, check our sources and listen; really listen to the other side of a disagreement. Maybe, just maybe they do make sense; maybe we haven’t seen the full story.
It was not Kool-Aid in the punch; perhaps we just need to stop shouting for a minute and let the other guy talk while we digest what he or she is saying; not thinking of what we are going to say to respond; but really listening. Perhaps then we can know the whole of an issue and know how to equitably settle it instead of only doing what takes care of one side or the other.
Let’s not drink the Kool-Aid.
(Deborah Lucas Angel is a contributing writer for the Grant County News. She lives in Corinth.)