Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Look at the Moon

When Mom recently passed along to me the November issue of New Republic magazine, I began reading The Fall of the House of Moon. It's a long article, which took me a couple sittings on a weekday. It's fascinating in several ways.

Perhaps the reason I was so motivated to start the article is because many moons ago, back when I was a freshman at Penn State, I was approached by a friendly, charming Englishman named Terry and a friend of his, John. On a quiet fall afternoon in the HUB, they started chatting to me, and no, it wasn't flirtatious; they were drumming up interest in what they presented as a liberal political group on campus. They invited me to a dinner meeting at their place that night, and Terry said he'd come by at around 6pm and walk me there.

Since I was too crazy to be afraid of meeting strange men and letting them walk me to destinations unknown, I accepted. When we met and started walking, it was slightly awkward, and the more we walked, the more it became apparent that I might have been too trusting. Finally, to my great relief, way way down College Avenue, we came to their apartment building and entered along with the some of the other students who had decided to check out this group. They called themselves CARP, or the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (pretty vague). The people in this group, who were all men, told us some very interesting personal stories about their families and travels, but--I still had no idea what they were about.

There was no discussion that I can remember that mentioned further meetings, and there was definitely nothing religious about it--did we say grace over dinner? Perhaps, I don't remember. That would not have struck me as odd, though.  However, I started running into Terry so often it was weird. He scared my roommate once, by coming up to our dorm room, unescorted--something guys just did not do, in the days before coed dorms. It's a mystery, how he got away with it, especially since he had another guy with him! This was Keith, a young man with a notably vacant expression. Terry was trying to talk me into going on a retreat, and warned me that I would be required to abstain from alcohol while I was there. It would all be so good for me. That's when it became obvious to me that of course this wasn't just some political group! Even if I had been interested, there was no way, no how, I would just leave school and go off--somewhere.

Later on, after I'd switched dorms, I almost walked right into Terry while exiting class. He told me he'd looked for me, but no one seemed to know where I'd gone--or wouldn't say, he added. Thank you, Candy. Well, actually, it wouldn't have been so unusual for no one to know where I was--after all, hadn't he always come up to me when I was alone, and wasn't that pretty frequent?  Being rude is something I hate to do, but Terry wasn't giving me any insight into what he was doing or why I should care. He was well-mannered, he didn't seem creepy, and yet--the situation was creepy. None of the other men in his group ever contacted me, just Terry.

Shortly after this last stilted encounter, a big long article about CARP appeared in The Collegian. They were, in fact, affiliated with Rev. Moon. Such irony! Terry targeted an atheist liberal kid to go off and be brainwashed by a conservative Christian-based cult. Perhaps that's why he wouldn't tell me much: it would have been a hard sell.

And then I noticed--they were all gone. I've always pictured them packed and running to catch the last Greyhound bus out of State College before this article saw the light of day.


Vanessa V Kilmer said...

I was stupid in college, too. When I think about it, I can't believe the places I went and with whom.

I never made good cult bait, either, but for slightly different reasons.

actonbell said...

Vanessa, so many of us were so lucky that things didn't go differently...

Bone said...

I think the #1 thing you need when starting a cult is a good, vague acronym :)

Glad you got out, or this might have been a very different post, and a very different blog.

TLP said...

I remember when I first found out about this happening. (Although I don't think I heard it ALL.

It scared the beegeebees outta me.

Karen said...

Nathalie, We're all THRILLED you were able to get the "beegeebees" scared out of you!