Anybody who likes to waffle on about American "freedom" and "democracy", and is under the delusion that these were actual realities in the pre-Trump era, should watch the enthralling mini-series "Wild Wild Country", about the dispute over the Rajneesh community in Antelope, Oregon, in the early 1980s.
"Wild Wild Country" makes for fascinating but also disparaging viewing: it does not paint a pretty picture of America/ns, nor of supposedly tolerant Oregon—(in reality, Portland is pretty much the only part of Oregon that is tolerant and diverse, with most of the state being populated by that all too common specimen—the average American Christian redneck who believes that anything that looks and behaves differently from him/her is a threat to the very fabric of society.)
"I don't think America has a place for these people," says the mayor of Antelope toward the end of the series, after finding out that Bhagwan has fled the country thanks to negotiating a plea deal. None of that US constitution "all men are created equal" bullshit! Freedom of religion, my ass! What about all the Mennonites, Amish, Shakers? Could it be that these are acceptable to Americans because they are made of white European Christians who do not extol the virtues of free sex but are in fact quite prudish and repressive?
In "Wild Wild Country" two different kinds of intolerance square off in a dangerous and violent battle, with each side believing they are absolutely right, and paranoia and violence escalating to dire consequences—it's even more shocking and scary than the Sopranos or any other mafia series, because it's all true.
The documentary makers keep faith with standard notions of "balance" and "objectivity" and skillfully present both sides, yet they also do much more: they weave a very subtle but not less powerful artistic vision, and anybody who has agonized over the editing of thousands of feet of documentary footage to make it cohere and say something deeper than "just the facts" will know exactly what I mean.
In the end, though I am by no means sympathetic to any cult or cult of personality, what struck me the most was that after the tragic disbanding of the Oregon commune the Bhagwan followers—at least those who are interviewed in the series—seem to have made something useful and diverse of their life, to have learned something and been transformed by the experience of living in Rajneeshpuram; while the Antelope citizens have simply gone back to the small-minded lives they lived before, breathing a sigh of relief at not having their "civilization under siege" anymore.