It's so easy to hate Charles Manson. He was a sick, twisted small time criminal turned cult leader, who talked a handful of bored stupid rich kids into killing for him. But the one thing that Manson said repeatedly, when confronted with his evil was “You made me.” Meaning, our criminal justice system helped create the monster. And, to some extent it's true. Granted, there are people who had terrible childhoods who overcame it and did great things with their lives. And countless more people who overcame bad childhoods and did good things with their lives. Manson was part of the all too depressing part of society that started off badly and only got worse. He was born out of wedlock to a sixteen year old girl, who did not want him. Once, Manson's mother traded him for a pitcher of beer to a childless waitress. Only to be returned a few days later. On another occasion his mother tried to place Charles in foster care but there were no takers. By adolescence, Charles was stealing and getting caught. By his early teens, Manson had been raped while in juvenile detention. Like a mistreated dog, Manson had turned mean. The abused becoming the abuser. In and out of jail all his life, Manson actually asked not to be released from prison in California during the late 1960s. He said he had nowhere to go and no prospects. He had been completely institutionalized. Prison was his world. Within two years of his release, Manson had used his combination of street smarts and predatory instincts to gather a small band of disciples, who followed him like a Messiah. Then came the horrific Tate/LoBianco murders, which Manson claimed was an attempt to start a race war. In truth, it was probably more an attempt for Manson to play god. And wield his awful power against the very symbols of all he was not; wealth, success, prosperity. So what are we supposed to do Charlie? Not have prisons? Not lock up people who steal and kill and abuse? Like many zealots, Manson was good at blaming society for his problems but short on solutions. Charles Manson was a perfect storm of what happens when an unwanted, unloved person comes into the world at the bottom of society. Who knows what people along his path through life tried to help him. Tried to throw him a life line. Ultimately, it came down to his choices. Yes, we made him. But he could have remade himself into something better.
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