A Place Called Waco: A Survivor's Story

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Today is the last day of Men of the Blog Week, which I am very happy about. I liked most of the books I read this week, but I'm looking forward to going back to reading my kind of books - I can't wait to get back to my nice comfortable literary rut. Men of the Blog week has been interesting (with the exception of the sports related stuff, that part just about put me to sleep), and I was surprised to discover how much I liked the kind of books I would have never chosen to read normally. I supposed I should have learned some lesson from this about expanding my horizons, but I will most likely go right back to reading the same kind of books that I always read (after tomorrow's edition of Sister Sunday that is).

Today's book was suggested by Danimal, who I believe it testing me to see just how far I'm willing to take this whole Suggestion Saturday business. Well now he has his answer, I will read a book about a cult but I firmly draw the line at reading his other suggestion which was a book about Overcoming a meth addiction (I would like to state on the record Dear Readers, that I don't even have a meth addiction. I merely have a book addiction, and there's no harm in that).

Today's book; "Anyone fascinated or horrified by the story of the Branch Davidian sect and the storming of their Waco, Texas, compound by law enforcement authorities in April 1993 will want to read David Thibodeau's compelling first-person account. Thibodeau, one of only nine Branch Davidian survivors of the attack (in which 74 people--including several children--were killed), begins by telling readers what brought him to Waco. We meet David Koresh as Thibodeau first met him: a fellow rock musician, an abused child from a troubled family who didn't finish high school and was fond of guns but loved to talk about the Bible. The memoir offers what appears to be an honest portrayal of life among the Branch Davidians, including the sham marriages in which men were expected to be celibate while Koresh had sex with most of the women--and girls as young as 12 years old. Thibodeau strongly denies other charges of child abuse within the community; children were punished and spanked, he says, but not beaten. The second half of the book details the Branch Davidians' dealings with federal agents. In light of subsequent government admissions, including a partial recantation in 1999 of previous denials that the tear gas used in the assault could have been incendiary, Thibodeau's detailed account of the storming of the compound and the fire that followed is chilling. Why did people follow Koresh? As Thibodeau remembers an early conversation with one of his followers, previously a theology student in England, "He has the answers to my questions." But A Place Called Waco ends with more questions than answers."

After reading today's book I've made a very important decision about the blog (and when I say very important I mean that I've made a decision that no one but my sister will probably even notice or care about): I think I'm going to have to change the title of the followers section on my blog. Every time I get a new follower on the page I get all excited and go tell everyone I know (I wish I was kidding, but I'm not - I'm really that dorky), but I always feel a little weird telling people, "I have 83 followers." It makes me feel a little bit like a cult leader. I think I should change it, perhaps to Dear Readers. What do you think, should I change it or do you enjoy following The Cult of Angie? (Okay, so it's possible that last statement might have been in poor taste - but I'm a big fan of tasteless, tacky humor so you'll just have to overlook that one dear readers, just like you've had to overlook my inability to use commas correctly.)

I have very mixed feelings about today's book. The author made some good points; that people should be able to practice the religion of their choice as long as they're not hurting anyone, and that the FBI handled the whole Waco situation badly. I agreed with him up to that point, but he lost me when he started trying to justify how Koresh having sex with 12 year old girls wasn't harming them. He sort of acknowledged that it was wrong on some level, but then went on to try to say that it was okay on a spiritual level and tried to claim that the girls didn't seem harmed by what happened - and that's the point where I started feeling irritated.

Overall I found the book really interesting - although there were some gruesome details towards the end which I would have skipped over if I wasn't reading the book for this blog. But I'm an honest blogger, so I read the whole thing, every bloody, gross description. Although reading it was kind of like watching a horror movie where you spend the whole time yelling at the screen, "DON'T GO INTO THE BASEMENT."

Interesting (and sometimes disturbing) facts from the book:

  • David Koresh's real name was Vernon Howell. (It's truly beyond me how anyone could look at a newborn baby and think Vernon. He looks like a Vernon. That's a great name.)

  • The cult (although the author insists that's not what it was) that Koresh eventually became the leader of was founded in 1934 by a Maytag washer salesman by the name of Victor Houteff. (My brain is instantly conjuring up images of a Maytag commercial about Maytag workers having so much spare time that they . . . Oh no, I can't go there. Two tasteless jokes seems like too much for one blog entry.)