An ongoing investigation in Kenya has resulted in the filing of murder charges against cult leader Paul Mackenzie and 29 of his supporters with the deaths of 191 children of his followers.

          These charges are the latest since authorities began investigating the cult about a year ago. The latest count of bodies found in shallow graves is 429, according to Al Jazeera.

          With his organization cited as an “organized criminal group,” Mackenzie had already been charged with terrorism, child cruelty and torture. A woman survivor of the forest encampment said that she and other women were raped repeatedly by the guards.

          While BBC’s Anne Soy says that police and prosecutors report, “some victims may have been strangled, suffocated or beaten to death using blunt objects,” many of the deaths have been attributed to followers starving themselves to death at Mackenzie’s bequest so that they “could go meet Jesus.”

          In fact, when authorities first reached the site – and they have been criticized for not taking action quicker – some half-dead followers fought treatment. Then, last summer one of Mackenzie’s co-accused starved himself to death, either to “go meet Jesus” or to escape punishment.

          Throughout the mass starvation, Mackenzie himself kept eating.

          Last year CBS even reported that autopsies on some of the earliest bodies recovered showed signs of possible organ harvesting.

          So, the blind devotion to a megalomaniacal cult leader led hundreds of Kenyans to believe everything he said, put their lives in peril for him and, in some cases, die gloriously for his cause.

          But, except for the organ harvesting angle, this has a familiar ring. In the United States, a megalomaniacal cult leader (later found liable for sexual abuse by a jury) encouraged his followers to ignore medical advice concerning masks and vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic, advocated silly science such as anti-malarial drugs, bleach injections and shining lights where the Sun don’t shine. He became  responsible for many of more than 300,000 preventable deaths.

          But, while Kenyans are prosecuting their killer cult leader, in the US Donald Trump is running for president again – with the support of many of the same state officials, hate-mongering media mouths and preachers who parroted his cult message to the detriment of their followers. In fact, some of these preachers will tell you that Trump was sent from God. (I guess God decided there were too many of us.)

          Since the outbreak of COVID-19, more than one million Americans have died from the virus. Statistics show that about a third of them, 300,000 or so, were people who refused vaccines, following Trump’s business-as-usual agenda.

          Trump’s anti-vax, anti-mask crusade killed many of his followers, whom he viewed, and still views, as disposable pawns in his political game. His anti-science idiocy was promoted by many governors and, in GOP territory, local officials displayed loyalty to Trump and not their constituents.

          Oklahoma officials – Gov. Kevin Stitt leading the way – were so dedicated to Trumpism that they achieved the dubious status of ranking second in per capita deaths among the states. More than 20,000 Oklahomans have died from the virus and more are dying daily.

          And, another Oklahoma achievement, a Household Pulse Survey in November showed Oklahoma’s long COVID rate of 34.1% as the highest in the nation, where 24.4% of COVID survivors are still suffering.

          Yes, there have been deaths among the vaccinated. But, the percentages are in favor of those taking precautions.

          A National Public Radio examination of about 3,000 counties since the vaccines became readily available showed that counties who supported Trump by a margin of 60% or more in 2020 had a death rate 2.26 times higher than counties supporting Biden by the same margin.

          And, the higher the rate of support for Trump, the higher the death rate. Talk about the last full measure of devotion.

          An August report from the National Institute of Health found:

          “Patients who were fully vaccinated were less likely to develop critical illness and require intensive care and were thus discharged faster. Inadequate immunity in unvaccinated patients, combined with the growing prevalence of the delta variation, resulted in greater illness and fatality rates….In this study, vaccinated individuals had considerably reduced mortality than unvaccinated patients.”

          Trump himself came down with  COVID. But, unlike most of his followers, he had the full support of the US government’s medical establishment behind him.

          But, that does not mean he escaped unscathed. His brain fog, such as confusing Nikki Haley with Nancy Pelosi, and his incoherent, disconnected ramblings nearly every time he speaks could be symptoms of long COVID, which could also be behind his constant state of anxious, angry agitation.

          In his response the afternoon after the Supreme Court heard the14th Amendment case, Trump actually admitted that the events of Jan. 6, 2021, constituted an insurrection. But, he blamed it on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

          CNN fact checker Daniel Dale called this claim “an insane statement. That’s beyond fact-check false. That is completely deranged.

          “This was a mob of pro-Trump supporters called to town, urged to be wild by Trump himself. Nancy Pelosi tried to protect the Capitol, tried to summon National Guard troops. Completely, absolute bonkers nonsense.”

            But, Trump cultists do not care. They are still lining up behind him and his stated goal to replace our republic with his dictatorship. They remain steadfast in their worship. They stand ready to become martyrs for Trump if need be. Others, such as those in the attempted coup mob (“Hang Mike Pence”), are ready to kill to support the leader of their cult.

          Deluded Kenyan cultists have nothing on their American counterparts.

            (Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party.)

Kenyan cultists die willingly, too

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