Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Beth's Books: A Political Two-fer

I'm a little consumed with politics right now and the two books I've read so far have both been political books. Why only two books so far? Especially when I have a goal of 52 every year? I'll explain in a moment.

But I'll say now that I realize that I need to step away from political books for a bit and get back into reading for sheer pleasure. Something that takes me away rather than depositing me directly in the midst of the current shitshow that is American politics.
I probably read a short book every day with all the political stories I read. It is probably time to get back to reading some fiction, some science books, and even political books, but maybe from a historical viewpoint. I have a copy of All the President's Men to read.
Not that that has anything to do with what is happening now.
The first book I read this year was Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win by Luke Harding.
My initial thought after reading this book was that this entire administration is rotten to the core. It is a well-researched book that provides all the sordid details of the questionable Russian dealings of people like Paul Manafort and Carter Page. It is no surprise that Robert Mueller has charged Manafort with multiple counts. I suspect that there will be more to come.
I was also struck by the sheer arrogance of people like Manafort who seem to think that they won't be caught. I look forward to watching Mueller reduce him to mincemeat.
The second book is the current NYT nonfiction #1, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff.
I've often thought about how much I would love to talk to certain politicians or people in that arena. The Obamas. The Clintons. The Bidens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, even. People like James Comey and Robert Mueller. People who are intelligent, informed, thoughtful, have interesting viewpoints and interesting stories, even if I don't necessarily agree with their viewpoints.
I've been fortunate enough to talk to a few here and there. My Mayor, Pete Buttigieg, is a super smart, great guy. I've had a chance to talk with the former Speaker of the House of the Indiana state legislature, Pat Bauer. I've gotten to say hello to one of my Senators, Joe Donnelly. I even had a nice conversation with Martin O'Malley, who was smart and engaging and asked me and Ken about some Indiana political issues.
It took me forever to read this book because I realized how completely boring the "president" is. He is not smart. He is not informed. He doesn't have a thought in his head other than how something relates to him. He has no idea how to engage or connect with others.
He's the guy who, if I were talking to him at a party, I'd figure out a way to extricate myself because I'd be rolling my eyes at his complete and utter self-absorption and lack of intellect.
The only enjoyable parts of this book were the ones about James Comey and Robert Mueller because they seemed to be the only ones in the whole thing with a shred of decency and integrity. (Also because of my Comey Crush.)
I can't NOT recommend it but I can say that it was not a particularly edifying read.
If you had to pick between the two, choose the former. There is a lot more research and detail there.
Happy (sort of) reading and remember to vote in your primaries and in November. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Pussy Grabs Back

All my life I've never seen
A woman so damn mean

~~ "All Day And Night" by Shake Before Us

Even dummies are woke
Well, it's been quite a year. 

I'm not going to get into the government shutdown because there is just too much to write about that. We'll see what happens tonight and early Monday morning. 

I want to write about the Women's March of this weekend. I was truly bummed that we didn't have a local one this year. Matt and I would absolutely have gone! (Ken was out of town and Shane was working.) I still remember the energy, positivity, and hope that I felt when we marched a year ago today. I saw all my posts from last year show up in my memories on Facebook and it was a great reminder of how this movement started. It was very much a backlash to an admitted sexual predator being inaugurated as our 45th president. We all felt disgusted and dismayed, but one day after the inauguration, we marched and raised our voices and said, "We are a force to be reckoned with." 

How wonderful and empowering to see that we have not lost that energy. In fact, it has only picked up. More women than ever are running for political office all over the country, from local township offices to Governor to Congresswoman to Senator to (probably) President. Shit's about to get real. 

A friend and local operative with the Democrats reached out to me and asked me if I'd be interested in running for a local office. He said he thought I'd be a great campaigner and candidate, and I found that incredibly flattering. Just the fact that he thought I have a good grasp of the issues, you know? I thanked him but said that I am way too much of an introvert to be able to do that. I can engage with people for a limited time and then I am done. Push me beyond that limit and I'm the one rolling my eyes and saying, "That's a really dumb question." Ha! He understood and said that that is why HE doesn't run and instead works behind the scenes to recruit people. I do wish that I could be more engaging with others, but I know my limits.

The happy ending here is that I have two friends who are running for local office, Cassie and Jennica. They both have been heavily involved with the healthcare debate as they are both mothers of preemies (triplets in Jennica's case) and have faced numerous hurdles as they try to navigate and find the best care for their kids. I couldn't be prouder of them and for them and I look forward to helping them as we move into this next election. 

Make no mistake about it. Women are pissed off and we are ready to fight and make our voices heard. 

2018 is the year that pussy grabs back. Buckle up!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Kind of a Drag

I got home from work and my first order of business was to head upstairs and change out of my scrubs and get into comfy clothes. 

I went back downstairs and turned on the TV and watched the latest about the OJ trial. Some of the reporters were saying that the DNA evidence was going to be disputed. I snorted. Who wouldn't believe that evidence?

I called my boyfriend up at work and we chatted a bit. He was pretty busy so we couldn't talk long. I heard someone else talking to him, a woman, and I couldn't really hear what he said to her. Something like, "Hang on." Or maybe it was, "Come on in." 

He got back to me on the phone. "I'll be over after I get off work, okay?"

"Okay, sounds good. See you then." 

We hung up and I sat there for a moment. Something didn't seem quite right but I didn't feel like thinking about it too much at the moment. 

I made myself a microwave dinner and sat down and watched a movie I'd rented. 

Then I worked on the mixtape I was making for my cousin. I added up all the minutes of the songs and figured out how to max out the space on the tape. I wrote down all the songs in my notebook and after about three hours, the tape was finished. I closed my notebook and heaved a sigh. It was a good tape and I was pretty sure my cousin would like it. But I'd write up the insert tomorrow. 

Besides, my boyfriend would be off work before too long and he'd be coming over. I made a fire in the fireplace and settled down on the couch to read. It was cozy and warm and I had started to doze off when the phone rang. I got up and went over to answer it. 

"I'm running a little late, but I'll be there as soon as I can, okay? If you want to go up to bed, I'll let myself in." 


I hung up the phone. I looked over at the fire, which was dying out. It was low enough that I didn't need to tend to it anymore.

I grabbed my book and headed upstairs. I brushed my teeth and got into bed and read for another hour. Where was he? He should have been here by now. I went back to my book and after a few minutes, I put in my bookmark and turned out the light. I laid there wondering what was going on. I picked up the phone and punched in his pager number. I laid back and looked at the ceiling for a while. The phone finally rang, the light from it brightening the dark bedroom. 

I answered it with, "Hey." No one else called me this late at night. 

"Hey. I can't come over tonight. I went out to my car and someone stole one of my tires." 


"Yeah, they just took it off of my car."




"Listen, I'll call you tomorrow, okay?"




I hung up the phone and looked at the ceiling again. What was going on here? What was I doing? Why was I putting up with this? 

My mind was racing and I decided to turn on the radio and listen to some quiet, soothing music. It was set on the oldies station and I listened to a couple of quiet songs. The DJ came on and said, "I'll take requests if you're out there listening." 

I rolled onto my side and looked at the light coming around the blinds. I looked at the phone. I picked up the handset and punched in the number of the station. The phone rang and the DJ picked up. "Hey. What do you want to hear?"

"Can you play 'Kind of a Drag' by The Buckinghams?"

"Sure. Why do you want to hear that song?"

"That seems to be what I'm feeling right now." 

"You okay?"

"Oh, yeah."

"You sure?"

"Really, I am. I've just always loved this song, and I'm feeling a little jilted tonight. This song really fits my mood right now."

"And you're sure you're okay?"

"I am. Thanks for talking to me and thanks for playing it, if you do."

"No need to thank me, and I will. Hey, what's your name?"

I told him and he said, "So hang tight and listen."

"I will. Thank you." 

I hung up the phone and burrowed into my pillow. I was on the verge of dozing off when I heard my name on the radio. The DJ said that this was going out to me and I heard "Kind of a Drag" start to play. The DJ interrupted the song and said, "To the young lady I talked to a moment ago...you're going to be okay. Tonight might be kind of a drag, but that doesn't mean the rest of your life will be. Rest well." 

I listened to the song and before it was done, my phone lit up and rang. I picked it up and I heard my supposed boyfriend's voice, asking if I was okay. I hung up the phone without saying anything. It rang again a moment later. The light lit up the corner of my bedroom.

I turned away and let it ring. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

NPR's Top Political Story of the Year Bracket

NPR had a fun story today about the top political story of 2017. What made it fun was that they treated it like an NCAA tournament bracket, even seeding the stories in each division! (If you're unfamiliar with NCAA brackets, each division has 16 teams. The favored team in each division gets the Number 1 seed, on down to the 16th seed. In the early rounds, the #1 seed faces the #16, the #2 faces the #15, and so forth. That's a really simplified explanation, but I think you get the gist.)

Since I'm both a sports fan and a political junkie, I was all over that! I printed out my bracket and filled it out a moment ago. I think NPR did a good job with the seeds, giving the most significant stories the higher rankings. When I filled mine out, I tried to think about the long-term significance of each story, the impact it had, and the repercussions. I tried to focus on what happened in 2017 and not what will happen as we move into 2018 (and that has major significance when it comes to my pick for the winner, as you will see). I had a couple of lower seeds make it to the second round, but by the time I got to the Elite 8, I had nothing lower than a #5 seed, so NPR did a good job. 

I will freely admit that I am biased in some of my choices, but I really did try to evaluate in the terms of impact rather than my feelings. I'll explain my choices as I get into the Elite 8. You can click the pic to embiggenate and the original NPR story is "Pick The Biggest Political Story Of 2017."

My Sweet 16

1 Trump inaugurated vs 4 Women's March
3 Natural disasters vs 2 Undermine democratic institutions

1 Mueller probe vs 5 McCain thumbs down
3 Gutting Obamacare vs 2 Charlottesville

1 Sexual harassment fallout vs 8 Bannon out
3 Gun violence vs 2 "Alternative facts"

1 Comey fired vs 5 Paris deal withdrawal
3 Gorsuch to SCOTUS vs 2 Tax overhaul passes

My Elite 8

4 Women's March vs 2 Undermine democratic institutions
1 Mueller probe vs 2 Charlottesville
1 Sexual harassment fallout vs 2 "Alternative facts"
1 Comey fired vs 2 Tax overhaul passes

Now I'll start my commentary. I chose Undermine democratic institutions over the Women's March, although the latter was a personal favorite. While I feel that the Women's March the day after the inauguration was an energizing and important moment that galvanized us and made us realize that we had a powerful voice when raised with that of others, I think the undermining of democratic institutions is going to have a lingering and damaging effect on our democracy. We continue to see our judicial system, our law enforcement agencies, and our free press attacked. This is a major problem going forward even after we get rid of the orange stain that is marring our country. 

While Charlottesville was a big deal indeed, showing exactly where the "president's" sympathies lie, the Mueller probe has to be the winner here. It really has been a cloud over this administration and has hampered his ability to get anything done. This is also an ongoing issue, one that is not, as some people have deluded themselves into believing, going to "wrap up soon."

While "alternative facts" are significant in the same way that the undermining of democratic institutions is, I picked Sexual harassment fallout as the winner here. This represents a significant cultural change in how women are treated in our society and we've already seen political changes because of it. 

The passing of the tax bill was significant in that it was the first major legislative win for this administration, and while there will be repercussions that affect millions, this can be changed to be more progressive when we're back in the driver's seat. So Comey's firing was the obvious choice for me here. More about that as we move forward. 

My Final Four

2 Undermining democratic institutions vs 1 Mueller probe
1 Sexual harassment fallout vs 1 Comey fired

Gotta go with the Mueller probe in the first match-up. I mean, we're talking about an investigation of Russia's involvement in our presidential election and whether or not one of the campaigns colluded with the Russians. As Joe Biden would say, that's a big fucking deal. It also is touching on whether or not the "president" obstructed justice in firing James Comey, which could be an impeachable offense. 

So for the second match-up, I had to go with the firing of James Comey. Even Steve Bannon has said that firing Comey was probably the biggest political blunder in recent history. Since Comey didn't just fall off the turnip truck, he did a little maneuvering, which resulted in the appointment of a special counsel, one Robert Mueller.

That means that my championship game is...

#1 seed Mueller probe vs
#1 seed Comey fired

Wow! What a tournament finale! Two worthy stories that are woven together in significant ways. Two stoic, professional prosecutors, both former Directors of the FBI. Two cool customers who know their way around a courtroom and know how to get a conviction. I'd tailgate the hell out of that game! 

Okay, you guys probably know the story I'm going to pick as the winner. Yes, it's the firing of James Comey. However, it's not because of my Comey crush, and it does come with a caveat. Or an asterisk, if I want to continue with the sports metaphors. 

I chose it because I think it is the story that had the most impact and most significant repercussions for 2017. When you-know-who fired Comey, events were set into motion like a weird political Rube Goldberg machine. The intricacies of it fascinate me. Comey was directing the FBI probe into possible Yampaign collusion with the Russians, Comey knew that Jeff Sessions was going to recuse himself from that investigation, Comey knew something was seriously hinky with the way the "president" was acting and documented it all, Comey got fired, the "president" wouldn't shut up about it on Twitter, and when he mentioned possible tapes of the meeting with Comey, Comey strategically released one of the memos he'd written (in a deliberate manner so that it was unclassified) to a friend and asked him to contact a reporter, hoping that it would result in the appointment of a special counsel to investigate. 

And that is exactly what happened and how Mueller was appointed. Man, if that isn't some Zen master-level maneuvering, I don't know what is. The investigation hasn't just continued, it has ramped up and is going to get even more heated in 2018, in my opinion. I think there is plenty of shady stuff going on for Mueller to dig into and he's going to turn up a lot. 

Which brings me to my asterisk. While the firing of Comey is my pick for the political story of 2017, I think the Mueller investigation could very well be the political story of 2018. I tried to evaluate based on the impact in the current year rather than what might happen down the road. So if Mueller really does turn up some damning stuff on the "president," that wouldn't just be the political story of 2018...that would be the biggest political story since Clinton's impeachment hearings. 

I think the moral of this story would have to be: Piss off the Intelligence Community at your own risk. 

Monday, December 25, 2017

Lucy Saves The Day

And so this is Christmas....

"Happy Christmas (War Is Over)" by John Lennon

Happy Chrimbo, pals!

Technically, I started this entry on Christmas Eve, but you get the drift. Like a snowdrift, am I right?! Yes, we are having a white Christmas here at Nutwood. It really is pretty.

I found myself sitting here tonight feeling on the verge of melancholy. I had to ponder that for a while because I really don't get the blues around the holidays. I'm generally a cheery person, anyway, so I was at a bit of a loss as to why I was starting to feel this way.

I mean, our little silver tree is up and the color wheel is going and it makes me smile as much as it always does. All the wrapping is done and I can always count on Ken to find me some fun and unusual stuff, so we'll have fun opening our presents. We'll have mimosas as we open. Our niece Jen is visiting from San Diego and we get to see her tomorrow as well as be around the rest of my immediate family, and we get to eat lasagna.

Beyond my little sphere, I'm seeing wonderful pictures and holiday wishes from everyone, including my homey James Comey, who which us all, no matter what we believe or think, peace. His pal Benjamin Wittes, dismayed by the recent attacks by this administration on the FBI and the Intelligence Community, urged people to donate to the FBI Agents Association, which helps family members of agents in need and provides college scholarships to the children of slain agents. It looks as though they got tons of donations and I was happy to be a little part of letting the FBI know that the majority of us appreciate them.

So all of these are good things. Why the twinge of melancholy?

I finally realized what it was. It is the utter mean-spiritedness of the person currently occupying the Oval Office. Most of us try to set differences aside during the holidays and bask in the glow of kindness and generosity to others. Donating to the FBI Agents Association made me feel better than anything I'll receive on Christmas Da. Watching the political shows Sunday morning, Chuck Todd and Jake Tapper were throwing Merry Christmases and Happy Hanukkahs at everyone, and it was nice. Even if you disagree with someone politically, it's a good moment to set all that aside and just be kind to one another.

But not the "president." He's holed up in his stupid golf resort and posting shitty tweets about the FBI, Comey, Andrew McCabe, and "Fake News." Jesus Christ, man, can you set your ego and paranoia aside for one moment and just be KIND to people? Instead of tossing out schoolyard taunts? "Leakin' James Comey. For Pete's sake. Grow up already. (And the only think Comey's leakin' is integrity and stone cold foxitude. You know I'm right.)

So that's what was making me feel down. Nothing bad in my own personal life. It's that the person who is supposed to be the moral compass of our country is bringing our entire national discourse down with his stupid mean tweets. Instead of inspiring and uplifting us, he is doing his best to drag us down to his level. He is a demotivational poster come to life.

A totally unexpected person lifted me out of my looming funk. I had music on but still had the TV on after a football game, muted. As I started writing this, I looked up and saw that CBS was airing the colorized "I Love Lucy" Christmas special, so I had to turn off the music and watch Lucy. Within moments, I was laughing so hard I was crying. While I love the original black and white series (and have the whole thing on DVD, of course), there is something special about seeing her vibrant red hair and seeing them all as you would expect to see them in real life. The episode after the Christmas special was one set in Hollywood, and the colors of the hotel room and the dresses were a sight to behold.

Ken even came out of this office to take a short work break and watched a little bit and was laughing as hard as I was. In one scene, Lucy was trying to act cool in this chic Hollywood dress shop, and of course, she stumbles and falls walking up the stairs. I cracked up and said, "Do you understand why she's one of my idols?" Ken said, "Because she was clumsier than you?" I had to admit that that is part of it!

Thank you, Lucy. Even all these years later, you can still make me laugh and make me happy.

You see, that's what the best among us do. People can inspire us in many ways. FBI agents can work as a team to foil a terrorist plot planned for Christmas day. Others can wish people peace and happy holidays, despite their differing political or religious beliefs. Some might be gone from us but have left a legacy of laughter and can brighten our day when we need it the most. Some create art and music and stories that make us think and maybe even help us reflect on who we are and where we want to be.

The best among us uplift and inspire and do their best to help, inform, or entertain others. They make us want to be better people.

The worst among us?

They send out shitty tweets.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Senator Franken did the right thing

I don't feel happy about writing this. I don't have a song in my heart and I don't want to include another photo of Al Franken looking downcast as he exits the Senate building. So here is a picture of Sheeba.

I also realize that I'm going to piss off some of my pals on the left with this post. It won't be the first time and I'm sure it won't be the last. I might even lose a few friends over it. But I need to say this, if only to get my own thoughts in order about it. 
Before I write anything else, I would recommend that you read this piece by David Atkins writing for Washington Monthly, titled "Defending Franken is Neither Moral Nor Pragmatic." He articulated my thoughts quite well but I want to add my own.
Let me start by saying that I love Al Franken. I loved him on SNL and I loved him as a Senator. He was a great progressive voice and he did plenty of good during his time in the Senate. I loved his most recent book and it remains my favorite of 2017, although it pains me a bit to say so. 
Since he resigned, I've seen plenty of friends on the left say that he was wrong to do so and that Senate Democrats (led by female Senate Dems) were wrong to force him out. I've seen the argument that what he did wasn't "as bad" as what the "president" did and what Roy Moore has been accused of doing. I've seen conspiracy theories about how it was all a right-wing plot and a deliberate attempt to get him out of the Senate.  
I've read through all of these things and while I understand the points that many are trying to make, I just can't get past the fact that there are multiple women who have told very similar stories. If we are going to believe the stories of the accusers of the "president" and Roy Moore, we cannot ignore the accusers of Senator Franken.
This smacks of cherry-picking to me. It pisses me off when people do it with religion, it pisses me off when people do it with science, and I'm learning that it pisses me off when people do it with sexual harassment allegations. You can't just decide that one person is a credible accuser and another isn't. That's not to say that some accusers can't be proven to be lying about it, but that is not what we are seeing now.
I feel that we cannot continue to rail against the piggish and abusive behavior of people like the "president" and Moore if we ignore the piggish and abusive behavior of those in our own ranks. If the past couple of months have shown us anything, it's that sexual aggression and disrespect toward women (and occasionally other men) knows no political boundaries. Both sides do it.
Our side has done it.
If we are going to accept and work toward a cultural shift in the way women are treated in our society, we must admit that our side has its own faults and we must work on them and vow to do better. Ignoring Franken's accusers does the opposite.
As for the argument that the other side has done worse and they are getting away with it, that is a lazy argument that lowers the bar rather than raising it. I understand that politics is a rough business and that sometimes you have to be a honey badger in order to win, but that doesn't mean that we have to stoop to allowing our candidates or politicians to wallow in the mud right along with the other pigs.
I demand better. We all should. I know that I am not alone in my dismay about the coarsened political discourse of the last year or two. That doesn't mean that I am ready to start behaving that way, too (although I might say more in private discussions than I do online). I still believe that we are capable of reasonable discussion and that compromise is not necessarily a bad thing. 
Beyond that simple fact, we need to be more like President Obama and play the long game here. While Sen. Franken's presence in the Senate would be a good thing, we have to think about what will be happening in 2018 and 2020. How can we maintain the moral high ground and campaign against the serial abusers on their side if we give those on our side a pass? We can't. Not only is that the wrong thing to do ethically, it is the wrong thing to do politically. Which is exactly what Mr. Atkins was writing about in his article. 
I know that it's frustrating to see this playing out. I'm frustrated, too. I still think that Sen. Franken was a good Senator and I believe that he helped a lot of people in Minnesota and in the country. But we cannot and must not hold their side to one standard and our own to another. I'm all about fairness. If our side does something wrong, we need to acknowledge it. Does the other side always do that? I laughed when I wrote that sentence. Of course, they don't.
But that doesn't mean that it is now okay to do the same things that they do.
Democrats need to stand on our policies.
We are on the side of human rights, we are on the side of equality in all aspects of our society, we are on the side of working people. We are on the side of making the ├╝ber-rich pay more than their fair share because they want for very little and can afford to do so. We are on the side of those who need a hand up in order to get out of a bad situation, whether it is addiction, debt, poverty, or abuse. And yes, we are on the side of women, because we want to control our own bodies, we want to be believed when we tell our supervisors that we were harassed, we want our kids to have a fair shot at a better life, and we want to be able to get out of abusive relationships.
We must be on the right side of things. I am truly sorry that Senator Franken was one of the sacrificial lambs, although that is probably too innocent of a metaphor. But it simply had to happen that way.
More women are running for office in 2018 than we've ever seen. We are motivated, we are ready to work, and we are pissed off. Tolerance of the bad behavior of someone (or someones) on our own side is not going to give us any credibility or moral authority when we run against hypocrites.
Hold the high ground, Democrats. Not only is it the smart thing to do, it's the RIGHT thing to do. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Bogeyman Is Dead

Criminy, there is just way too much going on right now to write about it all and some of it is more than a little disturbing, so I think I’ll write about something fun: the death of Charles Manson.

Okay, there really is nothing fun about it. I’m not making light of this and I’m not trying to be glib. You might notice that there are no song lyrics or a music video accompanying this post. Nothing about this makes me have a song in my heart. I even struggled to come up with a photograph to use for this post, because I really didn’t want to post one of Manson or any of his happy followers. So I chose Linda Kasabian, who was a follower, but after driving the getaway car on the night of the Tate murder, was appalled and chose to help the prosecution by telling everything she knew. While she was part of the Family, she was instrumental in putting the majority of them in prison, including Manson.

Like many people my age, I am morbidly fascinated by those murders. I was only 7-years-old when they happened, so I really don’t remember much about it other than my parents being worried about us all being murdered in our home. When the Bugliosi book, Helter Skelter, came out in the early ‘70s, my parents read it and I suppose I read it not too long after that. I still remember the paperback. Some interesting reading for a girl in middle school, that’s for sure, but I don’t recall my folks being upset with me for reading it.

So in an odd way, the Manson Family and the murders were a part of my childhood. There was the strange, train-wreck thrill of learning about this horrific murder, but there was also an element of being fascinated by the whole thing. I admit this without shame, because I was a kid coming of age, and I was trying to find my way through the world. There has always been a part of me that wondered that if I had been born a decade earlier, or in another place, I might have become part of that scene. Not the Manson Family, necessarily, but I had a fascination with the counterculture and a desire to be different. To rebel. I’m glad I realized pretty quickly that that would have been a horrible option. I might be a rebel, but I’m a peaceful one.

Manson was kind of a shadow over my formative years. I’m still fascinated by the whole thing and I loved the show “Aquarius,” and I’ve got a couple of books to read concerning his miserable life. I don’t mean it to sound as weird as I’m sure it does, but I’ve always had a morbid fascination about killers. It’s not that I revere them—quite the opposite—or that I like them in any way, shape, or form.

I’m fascinated by the psychology of it all and by what happened to them that made them that way. By all accounts, Manson’s childhood was miserable and abusive. Was he hardwired to be a murderer or did his circumstances turn him into one? How does an Ed Gein happen? Or a Jeffrey Dahmer? Is it solely mental illness or a combination of factors? What causes people to follow someone like Manson and to kill at his bidding? If I had grown up in a different place or in different circumstances, would I have been vulnerable to that type of manipulation?
These are all things that I think about. So when I read last night that Manson had died, I felt a strange combination of relief and sorrow. Relief that this monster is no longer upon this earth, sorrow for his victims (both the murdered innocents and those who fell prey to his murderous ideology). Relief that maybe I don’t need to wonder anymore if I would have been vulnerable to such manipulation. I even felt a measure of sorrow that he had such a horrible childhood and that maybe that’s what made him become what he was. I wonder if he’d gotten better care, including psychological care, as a child, would he have been able to live a relatively normal life?

I’ve seen people posting that he can rot in hell. I don’t believe in hell, so I can’t say that. He is now exactly where we will all end up. Dead and gone. The only thing that will be left for any of us is our legacy. His is a terrible one and nothing can erase that.

It strikes me as strange that these murders that happened a couple of thousand miles away from where I grew up and ones that I don’t remember happening at the time cast such a shadow on me. I honestly don’t know what to make of that. I remember that my Mom got Susan Atkins’s book where she wrote about her having her jailhouse conversion and becoming “born again.” I read it back then and I wouldn’t mind reading it again.

I remember thinking then that it seemed like an easy way out of the horrible things you’d done. No matter what you had done, God would forgive you. (A while back, I read Henry Lee Lucas’s book in which he had the same jailhouse conversion. That seems to happen a lot.) I wonder if that was apart of my disillusion with the dogma of certain types of religion? It still seems odd to me that some would condemn those who don’t believe exactly the way they do to “hell,” but people like Susan Atkins get a pass because, hey, she accepted the Lord and repented! That still bothers me a lot.

I have felt very at-odds today, very unsettled. I think there is an element of him being a bogeyman of my childhood and now he’s dead. He loomed large over our collective conscience and never quite seemed to fade away into obscurity. He is probably the most evil (and I rarely throw that word around) and notorious person of my lifetime. And he’s dead.

I don’t celebrate anyone’s death. But I guess I can be okay with the death of someone who was a shadowy, menacing part of my formative years.