ALPERN AT LARGE--Some of us are too quick to accuse others as evil, and both sides of the political spectrum are too quick to decry the other as "Nazis" or "fascists" or "racists". And then there's the real deal: Charles Manson, a man who lived by far too long, is dead at 83.
I was told early in my life that if I wanted to be a doctor, and one who truly valued life, that I should be opposed to the death penalty. I always found that to be curious, because I presumed that the value of a life was upheld, and not diminished, by the death penalty.
I also felt that (presuming that guilt WAS confirmed), to NOT perform the death penalty for murderers actually diminished the value and worth of the murdered, and that the center focus of punishment for the crime of murder should focus on the presumed wishes of the murdered, and not the needs of the murderer.
Charles Manson wanted a race war, and convinced well-educated, well-fed, and well to-do groupies to commit some of the most heinous murders in American history to do just that. Why he did it, and why they listened to him, probably involves a mixture of drugs, insanity, and a devaluation of life that cut into the underbelly of the 1960's counterculture movement as all "peace and love".
On the other side of the world, and in a different set of circumstances, another Hitleresque monster, one Robert Mugabe, who came to power under the auspices of overturning white colonial rule, is responsible for more deaths of black Zimbabweans than any of the white farmers he removed from power and economic prosperity ... and yet many choose to follow him even after he was just deposed.
Evil comes in all sorts of ways, shapes, and forms, and many of us accidentally walk down the road, or at least ignore, the route to evil that others take.
But virtually all of us walk back--if not run away with all our might--once we realize what our thoughts or implications of our actions might lead to.
Sarah Palin didn't kill those Arizonans and come close to killing Rep. Gabby Giffords ... an evil, deranged monster did.
No Democratic operative or leader came close to killing Rep. Steve Scalise and other Republican leaders on a Virginia baseball field A... an evil, deranged monster did.
Donald Trump didn't kill all those concert-goers in Las Vegas ... an evil, deranged monster did.
Barack Obama didn't kill several Dallas police officers ... an evil, deranged monster did.
Our society is certainly polarized along social, political, economic, and generational groups ... but we still adhere to being human.
And being human means, among a host of things, that "thou shalt not kill". Yes, there is war and conflict that leads to the necessary (and often unnecessary) loss of life.
But in general, humans adhere to the "thou shalt not kill".
I still adhere to the fact that our society would have achieved closure had Charles Manson been summarily executed, and that--presuming we would have adhered to the "thou shalt not kill" there was NO reason for him or his minions to EVER be up for parole.
I do NOT, and I suspect many (most?) do NOT view Charles Manson or his followers as human. I do NOT believe his prolonged life, and the millions of dollars to sustain it, was worth the money. I also am aware that his continued existence allowed future generations to remember what he did...so perhaps there was a good reason to keep this monster alive.
But the rest of us can learn to come together and remember--through all the confusion and distortion that social media and "fake news" can bring--that sometimes the Nazis and monsters DO exist. Charles Manson and Robert Mugabe did and do exist.
And perhaps--for a fleeting moment--we can remember that those of us who would NEVER do what they did are much more alike, and hold the same values dear to our beings, than we are divided.
God bless America, and may God bless us all as we cling to the humanity that makes us so special.
(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud father and husband to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)
Tags: Kenneth Alpern, Alpern at Large, Charles Manson, Robert Mugabe, Hitler, monster