Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mount Carmel, after: Part 2, My Shabby Dossier

I still have that dossier, and I'm pulling it out. That way, you can see what was available to us back then, and what I had specifically. It comes to a piece of scrap paper, a newpaper article, and stuff ripped out of five magazines. Later I wrote a college paper and did a huge art project from this incident. I kept tracking it. But it's good to know I took about twenty sheets of magazine and a sketch book, and nothing else of relevance.

From those twenty pages, I found as many web-links as I could. Most of them are buried in archives and don't come up on Google without a push. I don't know if anyone needs to review that much. Mostly it gives an option, and shows you that the information I had left me (and still leaves me) dissatisfied.

I already subscribed to Texas Monthly and The New Yorker, which ran stories. Jan Jarboe in Texas Monthly (June 1993) implied that all Texans have some “Alamo Syndrome,” of which this was the proof. For those of you who do not follow Grossly Simplified Texas History, a severely undermanned force including Colonel Travis, Davy Crockett, and Jim Bowie fought in a mission in San Antonio against Santa Ana’s forces and died to a man, so that the Texican forces had time to get to better ground. Mexico was decisively defeated at the Battle of San Jacinto (“Remember the Alamo!”) and became Its Own Country.

Texas Monthly is a good magazine, enjoying Texas mythology but doing good reporting in general. So I was disappointed in this gimmicky approach. However, the painting "The Siege at the Alamo" by Howard Davis Johnson at right certainly gets you to see--ah, something that may have spurred this idea for her.

The New Yorker had a painterly “artist’s notebook” with Bible verses written over them about the end of the world. I admired the artist’s placement and enterprise, but I thought he didn’t have much clarity going for him. (Artist at Large by Gary Panter, "Waiting for Waco", pp. 85-89, painted during the event but not sure of pub. date). However, it did contain an equally inexact map, which was the only map that placed the site, so I was grateful to him.

Much later, I decided his work was some of the most prophetic.

News Magazines
I still didn't know what to think of the news magazines. That was part of my quest. And as it happens, I still have the receipt for these too. I paid 25 cents each for three magazines at Thrift World.)

--Newsweek, May 3, 1993: The fiery cover with David Koresh's face and the words "Death Wish";
The introductory paragraph, page 3, "Death Wish: The last days of the cult";
a. Page 17, a political cartoon where a viewer wants law enforcement to end the madness, and then screams afterward that they should have waited it out. (Uh-huh).
b. A photo essay called "The Killing Ground" page 18, with a double page of the devastated site; "Inferno", the compound on fire, two page spread w/ foldout; "Assault" with (foldout reverse side, 3 Davidians leaving Federal court, the compound being rammed by large equipment, "Day 51" with inset of David Koresh's grandmother and aunt watching helicopters on television;
c. Main article, "Day of Judgment: How the cult standoff with the FBI escalated into a fiery finale", pp. 22-27, with sidebar on Janet Reno;
d. Article, "The Questions Live On", pp. 28-29;
e. Article, "Children of the  Apocalypse: For their parents, death wasn't the worst enemy", page 30;
f. Article, "Hard Lessons in the Ashes; Second thoughts on how to deal with extremist groups", page 31.
This is, including everything, about 12 sheets of paper.

--Time, May 17, 1993
"Dark Sequels: David Koresh's horror tale splits into dozens of stories, none happy", page 15, one paragraph.
"Behavior: Children of a Lesser God: The surviving kids of Ranch Apocalypse offer shocking details of life with David Koresh," page 54. [The dire illustration is a child's picture of her home as heaven. Does this seem odd to parents? Just asking.]

--Time, October 11, 1993
a. "The Week: News Digest", paragraph that Waco reports were completed by Treasury Department, p. 17;
b. pp. 39-40, "Waco: Tripped up by Lies" Treasury Secretary Bentsen is furious and fires 5 top managers at ATF. Sidebar, "Life After the Apocalypse."

--Baltimore Sun, 1993, October 9, "Justice Department clears itself in Waco assault", front page and 12A.

For material on the Web, there's not much left except fingerpointing. The best collected information is at NPR's "Frontline", a program they aired in 1995. This material includes a very extensive Timeline, amended again as new information came out. There's a readings page, which includes a report by Alan A. Stone, on the failures at negotiation.

Then there are the regretful elegy pieces at BBC (Fifteen years after . . .). Underneath that British deadpan, you hear the wind whistling as they shake their heads. I think Europeans believe this could happen only in the wilds of unsophisticated America. Of course, they got rid of out-sized religious expression in Europe circa 1509. Oh, wait . . .
My story is about journalistic coverage, and a belief that 'going there' would tell me more about how things are reported. Maybe even a little about what happened.

On Interstate 10 out of RiverTown, you drive on bridges with call boxes carefully spaced, because if you break down, there is no place to go. You must rely on the government to help you out. (Later, only people who have lived near there understand this, in regard to Hurricane Katrina evacuation and rescue).

In the state capital, a huge billboard overlooks the city holding the most corrupt state government in the U.S., at least by reputation: "Jesus is Lord over Baton Rouge." (Later, the governor goes to prison.)
But now who sounds like a news magazine?

Turnpike driving clears the mind, forcing you to consider only the present.
All the way there, that little stack of much-thumbed, shabby magazine pages sat in the passenger seat.

(Thank you to artists Howard Davis Johnson and Gary Panter for illustrations, both linked above; also MSNBC for photo.)
(Thank you also to many Texas nationalists of the Hispanic race, who fought in the Alamo, unsung by Grossly Simplified Texas Legend.)


Slamdunk said...

I was trying to remember my last trip on I-10 in the area you describe--1993 or 1994 en route to South Texas.

I think the appearance of the finger-pointing websites is now accelerated. Once an event occurs, these URLs seem to appear within hours and as the Waco Incident sites you mention: have a life of their own.

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
You are right, the responsible approach seems to be gone. I was looking at Sandra's post at Behind the Blue Line, and her refs and I just thought: yeah, the usual sick polarization. I think it's about greed. It can't be about pride, because there's nothing to be proud of.

And it made me mad.

Fortunately I have been lucky to find blog sites with thoughtful people. Then I read the blogs on their sidebars, too! I also check more than one news source to get the full. BBC is great, but they do have blind spots.

Thanks for writing in,
More on I-10 later,

Ann T.