Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Manson's Women

Hard to miss stories about the Manson Family in this 35th Anniversary season.  Last night A&E aired a program, "Manson's Women," which purported to delve in-depth into the stories of the girls who slew at Manson's bidding.  Of course, it was simply a rehash of the grisly murders for those who might have been born after they took place and who have no memory of the events in question.  However, the snippets of interview they held with Leslie Van Houten, Patricia Krenwinkle and Lynette Fromme were interesting. 

Van Houten and Krenwinkle were teenagers when I was an eleven year old boy.  Now they look rather like my mother, taut, vaguely athletic, assertive in that sense some might call "mannish."  They spoke simply and directly about the murders in which they participated.  Pat Krenwinkle described killing Abigail Folger with the dispassion she might have had describing any other process in her life, with no display of hard emotion.  It's been 35 years, though.

Lynette Fromme, on the other hand, drips with delusionary sweetness.  She speaks in a breathy voice, her eyes alight with mirth, or perhaps, joy.  If so, it's a secret joy she shares with no one behind the camera.  She alone of Manson's women evinces what might typically be called femininity.  She smiles mysteriously at questions that trigger memories of that time in her life, when her life intersected with something enormously powerful: meaning.  For she had no meaning before it, and certainly no meaning since.  Her interview is intercut with interviews of Manson, pathetic, self-pitying, whiny, with that messianic patois still falling off his lips like sacred screed.  Hard to believe how anyone could have fallen for it.  But then, they fell for Jim Jones and David Koresh and L. Ron Hubbard and Joseph Smith, too.

Nobody asks any questions about Scientology.

But it's to Van Houten and Krenwinkle that my thoughts return.  They seem normal, if butch, and they speak clearly and without any hint of the emotional/mental vortices that swirl inside Manson and Fromme.  The third of Manson's women who killed, Susan Atkins, did not appear in front of the camera.  Perhaps she has tired of talking about it.  Perhaps she believes that her actions speak for themselves. 

If any of Manson's women are parolled, it will be Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkle.  And their studious, dispassionate approach will be the making of them.  For they can show that they have grown, accepted their responsibility, and felt remorse, oh, such remorse, remorse that has grown as bitter and toxic as battery acid over the years.  Whereas, the survivors, with their strident calls for everlasting vengeance, are the ones who actually appear insane.

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