COLUMN: Charles Manson shook America and my childhood dreams

Sam Shriber

I’ve romanticized the 1960s since the eighth grade when I fell madly in love with Jefferson Airplane’s "Surrealistic Pillow" and the feel of bell-bottom pants against my legs. 

My mom would get upset over how devoted I was to a time period that took place decades before I was born. I vividly remember her throwing a fit when I said I wanted a 1967 Volkswagen Bus for my 16th birthday. 

She never understood my obsession with Baby Boomer generation -- I understand why she felt that way. The Summer of Love has dark clouds hanging above. 

But the fog of my innocence never provided me the courtesy of dodging the dark truths of the Summer of Love. I know beneath the sounds of guitar solos and the vibrancy of tie-dye prints exists a culture of racism, drug abuse and a wild-eyed man who ruined the 1960s fantasy. 

The 83-year-old cult leader Charles Manson died in a California hospital on Nov. 19. 

The mastermind behind what I have been taught as one of the most atrocious murder sprees in U.S. history died of natural causes, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. 

I can only imagine the horror that emerged when society discovered it was Manson and his family of young drifters, consisting predominantly of young women, who had done such horrendous things to other human beings. 

He died north of the same Los Angeles setting where he spearheaded the seven, brutal Tate-LaBianca murders in August of 1969 which shook up the quiet California neighborhood and would rock the world decades later due to their gratuitous use of violence.

In high school, I attempted to read “Helter Skelter,” a 1974 book by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry. The book chronicles the true crime conducted under Manson’s command through the insight of Bugliosi, a prosecutor in Manson’s 1970 trial. 

I never finished the book. I was probably distracted by studying or going to swim practice, but I still remember feeling my stomach turn. 

Manson, a man who preached war against races and identified himself as a hybrid between Jesus Christ and the Devil, totally annihilated the hippie-age fantasy. 

His death may never bring justice to the lives he took and to the minds he corrupted, but it reminds me of a few things at least. 

He’s the embodiment of the idea that one person can wake us up from our illusions of everything being sunshine, rainbows and peace signs, to the cold hard realities of life and death.

He lured youngsters in from their middle-class homes and presented a world dominated by sociopathic notions. 

Manson was a monster born from the sub-culture of peace, free love and idealism. He's as much apart of that era as The Beatles, ultra high-wasted pants or the beehive hairstyle. No era is without its faults, and to romanticize a decade in time is to realize no point in our history is as rose-tinted as it seems.

No decade matches the fantasy associated with it, and too often it takes radicals like Manson to remind people just how imperfect every golden age is and remind us to continue fighting for justice and peace to all. 


About Samantha Shriber

Samantha Shriber is a staff reporter at Central Michigan Life and is a Saint Clair Shores ...

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