Charles Manson died on Sunday, in a hospital in Bakersfield, California; he was almost 83 years old, had struggled with some gastrointestinal bleeding earlier this year and then was recently finished off by natural causes. In 1971 he had been sentenced to death, but before the ruling could be carried out, California did away with the death penalty and he was condemned to spend the rest of his life in prison instead, without parole. Still, Manson found a way to become eligible for parole–though he was denied for a multitude of reasons each time, most because they quite clearly found him to still be a danger to society.
The story of Manson is a brutal one, and he has become an infamous icon for all that is twisted, murderous and sociopathic. He was responsible, either directly or at his instruction, for the brutal murders of Bernard Crowe, Gary Hinman, Sharon Tate (eight and a half months pregnant), Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, Steven Parent and Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. His “Manson Family” was another reminder of what people are really capable of, and that such gruesome deeds aren’t always confined to the insanity of a single person.
He was as evil as they come.
The internet seems to have let out a collective sigh of relief since his death. The sanctity of life is justifiably not held so highly toward those who spit on it, though if you look, you can probably find comments lamenting any human death, ranging from Nelson Mandela to Osama bin Laden.
I was in Afghanistan when Osama bin Laden was killed–a buddy of mind shook my shoulder, woke me up and brought me to the TOC where we watched President Obama confirm the information that had already been pushed down behind the curtain. It was the middle of our deployment and bin Laden was little more than a figurehead, so most of us shrugged it off, went back to sleep and got ready to go back to work.
However, as a whole, the United States was elated at the news of bin Laden’s death–still, I saw the continuous assertion that we ought to sit back quietly and respect that, no matter how evil, a life had left the earth. While I do prefer to see people act with restraint and quiet professionalism, I couldn’t blame anyone for being glad that the man was killed. But these assertions, that we ought to respect the passing of one soul from this life to the next, are not so common with Manson (though I’m sure you can find them if you look). Why is that?
Is it that Manson was less mired in politics, there therefore easier to ascribe as pure “evil?” Was it that bin Laden’s ideology is based in a popular religion worldwide? Were bin Laden’s crimes also not crystal clear, to the point of blatant admission? Is that it is easier to hate the evil next door, rather than some strange evil far away?
Or perhaps it’s because everyone is finally on the same side for once. Most people wanted Manson dead–many people wanted bin Laden dead too, but when it happened and one political party jumped for joy, it was difficult for the other to accept that they could ever be happy about the same things. And so they found some way to argue about whether or not to be happy about the death of a man who orchestrated the murder of almost 3,000 Americans. Who are we, if we can’t be divided into two distinct sides?
Manson has, ironically, been a tiny unifying factor in a sea of divisiveness. We can all agree that the world is far better off without him, now let’s get back to arguing about whatever it is we were arguing about before.
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