“Wild Wild Country” is a pretty darn good documentary. It’s on Netflix, and you might have heard reviewers, bloggers, or fellow teachers at your school recommend it. Leah and I finished it recently, and it is very much worth the time—six, one-hour episodes, which honestly you’ll probably just binge in a day; it’s that engaging. So what’s it about? In 1981 a cult, led by Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, took over the town of Antelope, OR. Though the documentary doesn’t call the cult members “Rajneeshees” too many times, that’s how I always knew them, because Antelope is pretty close to where I grew up.
I first heard about the cult from my 6th grade Language Arts teacher. I’m not sure what began his tangent, but the story our class ended up being one of those moments when, without any prompting or cajoling, a teacher got an entire class’s attention, and kept it, firmly, for the entire period. One such moment occurred for me, when a student asked what I remembered about September 11th, 2001. I talked for almost an hour, and though it my very nosiest and least-attentive class at the time, the only time anyone interrupted was when a few intelligent, pertinent questions came up. Truly, its times like those when you can actually feel learning in the air.
Anyway, sometimes it is worthwhile to veer from normal classroom topics, and in the instance when I was a 6th grader, our teacher told us about how years earlier, he and his friend had heard that a cult had moved into a nearby town. They heard that the cult was started by an Indian guru who came over to the States with twenty Rolls Royces, that all the cult members were young Americans who wore orange clothes, and that they did sexual stuff outside. A cult in low-population Eastern Oregon is big news, so our teacher and his friend drove over to a ridge overlooking the cult compound and spied on them using rifle scopes.
They didn’t believe the rumors that the Rajneeshees were a sex cult. But then my teacher and his friend saw a bunch of the cult members doing “something crazy” out in a field, and shocked, they packed up their rifles and left—the rumors had all been true. Watching the documentary makes it pretty clear that what our teacher saw was hardly the craziest thing the Rajneeshees did. They’re most famous where I grew up for conducting America’s very first biological weapons attack on the city of The Dalles. Also, they trained their own military, planned assassinations, and collecting homeless people from around the US, mostly all in a bid to influence elections and perhaps one day take over Oregon.
Oregon is bifurcated in a way. The western side of the state is where most of the population lives, and this is where main universities and businesses are. This also is the side of the state which is rainy, liberal, and from where most Oregon stereotypes originate. I grew up in the eastern side of the state, where things are dry—we call it “high desert”—where people are pretty conservative, and where most of the economy is based around agriculture. It’s nice to see the eastern side of the state getting a little coverage, even if it is because one of Oregon’s eastern towns got taken over by a cult. Now, don’t you want to check out this documentary?
–Jeff and Leah
(more on this topic coming soon)