“Never again” is a common slogan popping up appropriately during Holocaust remembrance observances and after repeated fatal shootings in schools or whenever survivors want to comfort each other with the thought their efforts can deter future tragedies.
But “never forget” might be a more effective motto, where one generation succeeds another in places of high authority and responsibility.
In fact, “never forget” would be a very appropriate mantra for whoever becomes the next governor of California when it comes to surviving members of the Charles Manson gang and other especially cruel and deliberate mass murderers.
Forgetting is definitely possible with the Manson “Family,” as his motley and deadly gaggle of followers was known during its heyday in the late 1960s.
Very few grieved when the sometimes mesmerizing gang leader Manson died in prison last November and not much of a crowd turned out for his funeral this spring in Porterville.
Manson, understated the pastor presiding over that ceremony, “made choices that brought great consequence and negatively impacted other people for many, many years.”
The first to be “impacted” were some of the men who hung out with the “Family” during the months the group squatted on the now-defunct Spahn Movie Ranch in the northwest Los Angeles suburb of Chatsworth. One was musician Gary Hinman, whose ear Manson slashed off with a sword before his henchmen killed Hinman. Another was movie stuntman Donald (Shorty) Shea, whose body was found in pieces on the ranch.
Then, in their more notorious murder spree, Manson’s followers on his orders invaded the Beverly Hills-area home of actress Sharon Tate, brutally killing her along with coffee heiress Abilgail Folger, movie director Voytek Frykowski, hairdresser Jay Sebring and Steven Parent, a friend of the estate’s caretaker.
A day later, in the Los Feliz neighborhood a few miles east, they stabbed to death grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary, leaving behind messages scrawled in the blood of the victims.
Yes, as the preacher said, Manson’s choices surely impacted the lives of all those people. He took however many years they all might have had left, costing at least a century’s worth of human experience, not to mention potential offspring and the friends and families affected by their deaths.
The roster of infamous Manson Family killers still in prison includes Leslie Van Houten, Bruce Davis and Charles (Tex) Watson, all of whom come up for parole periodically. State parole officials occasionally recommend freedom for them on grounds of good behavior and achievements while imprisoned. But can anything they do ever outweigh the harm they did almost 50 years ago?
Brown, who lived in the Laurel Canyon section of Los Angeles at the time and experienced some of the horror that infused the area while the gang was on the loose, has vetoed their paroles repeatedly.
Similarly, he would not be likely to succumb to any temptation to release other killers like Juan Corona, who killed 25 farm workers before his skein ended; or Edmund Kemper, the Santa Cruz area’s “Coed Killer” during the 1970s, or Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris, who raped, kidnapped, tortured and murdered five young women in 1979 in Southern California. But Brown leaves office at year’s end.
What about his potential successors, folks like Democrat Gavin Newsom, a child at the time of the Manson slaughters, or Republican John Cox, who moved to California in 2011, long after these crimes?
For them, the “never forget” mantra is crucial.
That’s because, while most elderly convicts pose little risk on parole, putting this kind of criminal on the streets would justifiably cause many to look over their shoulders while walking down streets or even sitting at home.
If Manson’s death and funeral do nothing else, they should renew the sense of horror at the crimes he instigated and committed and add pressure to keep his remaining followers and others like them where they can do no more harm.
Any future governor who does forget that these folks long ago forfeited their right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness will deserve whatever political consequences might follow.
Thomas D. Elias writes the syndicated California Focus column. He is author of the book, “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It.”
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