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The fear that hovered over Los Angeles in the wake of the August 1969 killings of actress Sharon Tate and six others has, with the passage of a half-century, evolved into an odd and unseemly nostalgia. Charles Manson and his pathetic band of hangers-on have sparked a cottage industry of tours, books and films that recount or rejigger the two nights of horror, the lives of the perpetrators and victims leading up to that point, and the trials and punishments that followed.

Or maybe, as sick and bizarre as it may sound, the memory of the cruel, senseless and cold-blooded Manson killings sparks a yearning for some long-ago time when multiple random killings seemed unusual, and when a killer like Manson destroyed comparatively fewer lives than today's mass murderers--the angry young men, the grudge-fueled middle-aged men, the racist hatemongers, the spiteful teenagers, armed with guns.

In the 1960s, violent crime was beginning a steady climb that was to persist for a quarter century, and perhaps the Manson killings symbolize that frightful era. Today, the nation's crime rate continues its plunge notwithstanding an occasional spike. Yet this is the heyday of wholesale slaughter.

In comparison, the members of Manson's "family" were--although brutal--rank amateurs.

Prosecutors argued that Manson planned to blame the killings on African Americans in order to start a race war that blacks would win. But then they supposedly would be unable to govern themselves, and Manson would somehow take over. He was reportedly inspired by bizarre misinterpretations of Beatles lyrics.

Let it go. If there was any lesson to be learned from the Manson killings 50 years ago, our society failed to learn it.

Manson's victims deserve to be remembered, as do all murder victims, but Manson and his sorry followers do not. Enough Manson reminiscing. Enough murder nostalgia. We have our own mass murder problem, and we can ill afford to indulge in wistful or lurid looks back to a time when senseless mass killing was so rare that we could remember the names of the killers.

Editorial on 08/10/2019

Print Headline: The odd Manson nostaglia


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