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AFTERWORD From the Ashes of Mount Carmel BY CHAR MILLER Author’s note: In the wake of the recent hoopla over the fifth anniversary of the Mount Carmel in femq near Waco complete with news specials, access channel diatribe and a front page piece in The New York Times I’ve borrowed a page from Jonathan Swift and come up with a Modest Proposal, intended to turn a real American profit from this apparent disaster… 66 H ey, Reverend, you’re a must know what Ko man of the cloth,” a beefy, red-faced gent shouted across a crowded locker-room in April 1993, “so you resh’s favorite reli gious holiday was.” The place froze. David Koresh and seventy-nine other members of the Branch Davidian sect had died less than twenty-four hours earlier; the compound’s embers still glowed red-hot. The minister shook his head in a silent “No” a plea that his interlocutor ignored by delivering the punchline: “Ash Wednesday!” A gust of mirthless laughter swept over the room, in a weird, uncomfortable catharsis. It was then that I had an evil thought, one I’ve kept well-banked for the past five years. It’s the American Way: why not take that tasteless joke to its lurid extreme, parody the Davidians’ demise and our survival and, in the process, make a bit of green? Waco, unfortunately, hasn’t had much experience with Luciferian humor. Before the inferno, the city of Waco had but two passions: Southern Baptism and the Baylor University Bears, neither sinful enough to darken the town’s reputation. Waco is no Baghdad-by-the-Brazos. But it could become just that not to mention a significant tourist Mecca if Wacoites could only reimagine that parcel of once-scorched earth just off Double EE Ranch Road. As early as the summer of 1993, there were encouraging signs that at least some entrepreneurial citizens understood that the smoking ruins of the Branch Davidian Compound could be turned into a financial windfall. McLennan County Commissioner Lester Gibson, for example, mused, “We can make a tourist area out there,” and perspicaciously noted the precedent of a more legendary Texas massacre that has long since been turned into a monumental cash cow. For Waco, Gibson mused, Mount Carmel could be what “the Alamo is in San Antonio.” The Mount Carmel Survivors Asa profit might be turned by the exploitation aster. In time for April’s fifth anniversary, the group opened a small museum on the compound’s grounds, marketing Koresh memorabilia \(chief among these, video stake a claim to a piece of this somewhat grisly but possibly lucrative heritage. But there is so much more that could be done. It’s high time Waco and the surviving Branch Davidians take full advantage of what God, his self-proclaimed son, and the A.T.F. handed them. Of course, the profiteering should be done in a style consistent with the American idea of Good Clean Fun. Surely there is no better way to do this than to build a theme park and no better name for the theme park, than “The Eternal Flame.” Constructing the multi-dimensional, interactive park will re quire a bit of planning, stealth, and imagination, not to say a massive infusion of capital. While we wait for the inevitable public offerings of stock in the future development of Mount Carmel Acres, I’m happy to offer an opening proposal for what will eventually blossom forth as some of The Eternal Flame’s most exhilarating moments. But first, the city fathers must grab those seventy-seven acres. In a state de voted to the fine art of land speculation this essential step should be relatively simple, perhaps following the lead of stadium builders in Arlington and Houston, where the public was, al , lowed to underwrite the deals envisioned by big speculators. The real fun begins with the park itself. For architectural precedent, Waco needs to study the masters who designed Disneyland and the Universal Studios. Those “imagineers” understand that the best way to capture the masses’ attention is to place them right inside scenes of ghastly horror \(suitably touched up, of course, for guests a chilling sense of actually having been there without ever subjecting them to the least bit of literal historical reality In this people-friendly respect, the possibilities for The Eternal Flame are endless. The tour, for instance, might begin by herding customers into a shrouded horse trailer, complete with armed stuntmen \(who double give a recap of the first day’s drama, and then punctuate their scripted talk by charging out of the trailer and assaulting the rebuilt compound. Visitors would watch the mock firefight from the “safety” of the trailer, though it too would be part of the act; the whine of ricocheting bullets would be THEME PARK 30 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JUNE 5, 1998