Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What's Past Is Prologue

Charles Manson died the other day, and I have struggled with my thoughts about that.

He was, after all, 83. He was in his mid–30s when his "Family" committed the 1969 Tate–LaBianca murders on his behalf, not quite 40 when he was convicted and sentenced to death, only to have his sentence commuted to life in prison when the death penalty was abolished in California.

Clearly he lived a lot longer than he probably expected when his conviction was handed down.

And he was the notorious mastermind of murders that shook the nation then but would hardly merit a passing glance from today's media.

There is no reason to mourn his passing. And yet I am conflicted.

In the past I haven't regretted feeling no sorrow over the deaths of those who were responsible for much suffering and showed no remorse for it. Haven't regretted it at all.

I even sympathized with those who celebrated when Ted Bundy was executed or Jeffrey Dahmer was killed by a fellow inmate or the Night Stalker died of apparently natural causes.

But it's a problem for me. It goes against my upbringing to rejoice when a fellow human being dies. I guess I was able to rationalize it better when I was younger. Not so much now.

I'm sure that when he died, Manson was no better than he was when he terrorized Southern California. Every time that I heard a comment he had made from prison, he seemed just as twisted as ever — and I suppose he will always be a textbook case for the argument that some criminals are completely irredeemable — and thus, there is no real point behind incarcerating them for a lifetime.

Except to preserve a life.

I understand the need some people have for revenge, and I don't want to minimize that. There is something to be said for an eye for an eye. I could even support it if I felt it guaranteed closure for the survivors. But it doesn't — not always, maybe not even a majority of the time.

And as Gandhi said, an eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind.

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