by Gina Funk
On August 9, 1969, Actress Sharon Tate and several of her friends were brutally murdered in the home Tate had rented with her husband, film maker Roman Polanski. The “Manson Murders” sent shockwaves across America, in part due to the hype about so-called “ritualistic” aspect of the crime. As a connoisseur of true crime stories, I have read classic and obscure writings about the crime and the subsequent La Bianca murders. Most fascinating to me is the manner in which the “establishment” used the murders and Manson himself as the foundation of a campaign against what was then called “hippie culture.” Without belaboring the point, Manson and the “Manson Family Murders” became foundation stones in the deconstruction of the “freedom movement” associated with the “Summer of Love,” headbands and outdoor concerts, freedom of thought, and activism in the name of peace. To this day, the Manson Family and the horrible crimes they committed are used as de facto evidence that “freedom” is “bad”—that the ideas of 60s counterculture inevitably and tragically lead to anarchy, Satanism, and murder. I was a child when I heard my grandfather, a Southern Conservative Patriarch (S.C.P.) speaking in hushed tones about the horror across country in California. I remember a cloying sense of fear that came over me as I caught snippets of the story—shots of covered bodies being hauled out of the Tate house, then pictures of the fanatical murderesses, wild-eyed “Charlie,” swastika tattoos, the taint of sexual promiscuity and drugs. In many ways, my entire personality was, in part, shaped by the mythos of Manson.
I am 54 years old now. I grew up, spent my youth, raised a family, and throughout it all maintained a keen interest (if not obsession) with horrible crimes. It seemed to me that if you could look at the face of evil you could perhaps inoculate yourself and your loved ones against that evil. In addition to pondering the ironies and horrible coincidences that are involved in bringing killer and victim together, I began to see a larger picture, one that is infinitely more frightening that the stalker entering a bedroom, a masked murderer, a psycho boiling heads and worshipping Satan. I began to understand how crime is used to control us.
In May of this year, my daughter gave me Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, a story of the search for the so-called “Golden State Killer.” My first reading of the book was a giddy ride in which I devoured the frightening tale of a brutal rapist and killer who stalked with impunity during the 70s and 80s in California. Later in the summer, I found myself compelled to read the book again. Something was hidden beneath the surface of this story, and I combed the narrative for the hidden meaning. It emerged with breathtaking clarity and revealed to me a sinister reality of American culture. There are killers everywhere at anytime. In modern culture, they thrive on one simple principle, a principle that we see playing out in our present political climate: they count on the knowledge that sexual crimes against women will always be handled subjectively. Was she sexually promiscuous? Was she drunk? Was her dress too sexy? Was her attitude too bossy? Was her house not clean, her brain too keen? Before one bit of detective work is done, the VICTIM has been pigeonholed and categorized. This pattern of evaluation plays out in every aspect of American culture.
Women in the 21st century face an onslaught of repression the likes of which we have not experienced since the dark ages. In many countries, women may be murdered by male relatives in honor killings. In some cultures, girl children endure mutilation of the genitals in the name of sexual purity. In America, women will now experience a new world in which they are no longer sovereigns of their own flesh and blood. Our country voted for this, and it will come to pass. In 2018, women will again be placed in the position of third class citizens behind men and behind the unborn. In the 21st century, there are politicians who publicly cite the belief that women who are raped cannot be impregnated. This battle is lost, and the purpose of my writing this is not to argue for or against reproductive rights. I merely bring up the obvious to make a point that is ultimately symbolized in the image so many of us who grew up in the 70s have of the dark side of freedom: Charlie’s girls with shaved heads and glamorous Hollywood elites butchered in their rarified and sprawling mansions in the sun-kissed SoCal hills. The message is simple: freedom is a killer. Freedom is Satan—especially where women are concerned. The pop culture obsession with ritualistic murder and the fruits of countercultural resistance to military industrial complex paradigms is a blood-soaked pillowcase over the heads of arrogant and hapless celebrities. How to avoid this? The Machine says we can avoid this by avoiding freedom—especially the freedom of women.
Women are murdered by husbands, boyfriends, male relatives, and women-hating strangers everyday. There is no national outcry. There is no national “Czar for Crimes Against Women.” There is just the ever-present body count. The “Me Too” movement came out roaring with a vengeance to try and shake our culture out of complacency. The movement inevitably came to a stunning dead end as right-wingers lampooned and demeaned the women who came out passionately to vocalize the systematic abuses that are tolerated by industry, by business, by cities, by small communities. Rose McGowen’s words have been eclipsed by obsession over the fact that she shaved her head in a classic and symbolic gesture of mourning and sorrow. Back to square one: don’t open your legs, shut up and grin and bear it if your uncle rapes you and you are impregnated, don’t work outside the home if you don’t want to be grabbed, groped, or harassed. The answer is simple: accept your fate as a third class citizen.
Somewhere in the tapestry of our collective consciousness there floats an image. It is the image that the Machine wants us to have of a time in history when people questioned the morality of war and the blind worship of money. That image is of a dusty old movie ranch with half-naked women swarming around their master, Charles Manson. He was the boogeyman who taught a whole generation to pull back from the brink of protests, of exploration, of questioning authority. See? The Machine beckoned. See what happens when you leave your father’s house, when you leave your husband’s house, when you look beyond the confines of a society dedicated to the creation of wealth for a few on the backs of the many? Now on this day in the Summer of 2018, the Machine has brought full circle the campaign to continue the enslavement of women for generations to come. Manson is dead, but his legacy as a symbolic bludgeon is alive and thriving. McNamara’s book catalogues a murder odyssey that makes the Manson murders look like a dark fairytale. Yet, our collective consciousness is not shaken by a campaign of terror and destruction against ordinary women and their men trying to live FREE in America. Their deaths—though as horrible as poor Sharon Tate’s—do not serve the Machine.
There has been a great war, and it is lost.
Meanwhile, in Hollywood, tourists still drive past the La Bianca house with its imposing gate speaking in whispered tones of the horrible killings, killings that serve to remind us that women cannot be trusted. They are one step away at anytime from promiscuity and murder. The winding pavement of Cielo Dr. is a pilgrimage into the acknowledgement that freedom is not to be sought, for therein lies madness, evil, and death. Our country has accepted this narrative—a narrative that began with the murders of the Kennedys and King. Our electorate has moved us into a new era of darkness. Who will write the stories of those of us who have labored in obscurity so our daughters could be captains of their own fate? Will we be seen by future generations as stringy haired crones, borderline witches raving against G-d-ordained order? Only time will tell.
Manson is dead. Dead also is the concept of the equal rights of men and women. Women have been given their marching orders, and the sergeant at arms is fear.