Friday, March 20, 2009

The Face of Evil

A new mugshot of Charles Manson has been released. Gone is the wild-eyed stare from his earliest pictures, replaced by the vacant eyes of an old, empty man. As much as his early mugshot creeps me out, I must say I'm bothered more by the recent one. He looks like a man without a soul... and perhaps he is.

I pity Manson. Not because of the picture, but because of where I know he will spend eternity. I'm sure most feel that is where he deserves to be and perhaps he does. I'm not God. But at one point, he was a child and I just can't believe he was always evil. Who knows what pushed him into the life he chose. Lots of people have childhoods as traumatic or even more so than his, and they don't all become homicidal maniacs with a cult following.

As horrific as the Tate-LaBianca murders were (and the quasi-circus aftermath of the trial), I'm not quite sure why Manson is so notorious. Now don't get me wrong. I think he totally deserves to rot in jail for what he did and I am in NO WAY defending him. I'm just trying to figure out how he someone became our country's embodiment of evil. To my knowledge, he was never actually convicted of personally killing anyone. Maybe it's because he so easily influenced and controlled people that sealed his legal fate. I'm not sure who would scare me more: a killer or someone who can have me killed and convince the murderer to take the fall for him. The power he exerted over his followers is unsettling at the least. But he's not the most brutal killer in our country's history. There are serial killers with a much higher body count and those who not only murdered but dismembered or even ate their victims.

There are also people who are just as dangerous as he was as far as influencing people to commit acts of violence. Last night I was watching a documentary on white supremacists and neo-Nazis in America. Some of the things these people discuss--on radio, the Internet, in print--is no less crazy or hate-filled or dangerous as Manson's "philosophy." Manson believed a race war was imminent and that the blacks would rise up against the whites and kill them all. He believed he and his followers would survive and would rise up to rule the country since the blacks would not know how (on a side note, Manson believed he and the Beatles would constitute the 5 Jesuses... nuts). This may all sound like insanity, but some of it is not much different that the propaganda spread by today's white supremacists. People like former KKK-member Tom Metzger are just as much of a threat as Manson was. Metzger encourages "lone wolf" supremacists to assimilate into society and even pretend not to be racist so that they don't draw attention to themselves. Specific guidelines for these individuals or small cells include, "Act alone and leave no evidence; do not commit robbery to obtain operating funds; act silently and anonymously; do not deface your body with identifiable tattoos; understand that you are expendable; and whatever happens, do not grovel. If our race is going to die, at least let us die with dignity!"

Manson and his followers have been denied parole continually over the years, as they should have been; however, others who have committed crimes as bad or even worse than theirs have walked free. What exactly pushed the Manson "family" onto a different level? Why aren't other criminals also denied parole? Are the feelings of the Tate family somehow more important because she was famous? And why are so many people walking free who have undoubtedly incited acts of hate and violence with their own words? Seriously, watch some of the docs on History and National Geographic about the white "power" movement in our country. It will scare the hell out of you.

Okay, rambled enough. Gonna go find something happy to read about now.

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