Charles Manson died this week, at last. He was an older and more shriveled version of the same hateful racist he’d always been, the swastika tattoo on his forehead wrinkled with decades. Fan boys and apologists are quick to point out he didn’t personally stab and dismember the nine murder victims of the Manson Family. As if that made him innocent in their deaths. Although they aren’t the same, my mind has linked my grandmother with Charles so strongly that when I heard of his demise I instantly wondered, Did she die too? Because there are ways they are the same.
They were born the same year. They both led cults. They persuaded their followers to acts which produced a far greater body count than the number they directly killed on their own. And the first time I learned Manson’s total was “only” nine, my genuine first response was an unholy guffaw and “My grandma’s killed more people than that!”
My grandma didn’t murder anyone. She left sponges in surgical patients as a nurse. She ran into and over a disabled pedestrian as a driver. She oversaw dangerous home births and didn’t transfer to the hospital when things got dicey as a spiritual midwife. She advocated for “a complete withdrawal from the Satanic medical system” in her books as a cult author. And killed more people than Charles Manson in the process, all with the outward demeanor of Little Old Lady – short and round and nonthreatening in every way.
It’s been a difficult week.