Illustration by Patrick Klose

SPEX columnist Steven Lee Beeber takes a look at everyday American madness. This time around, Charles Manson is getting married.

Charles Manson’s back! And he’s starting a new family. A nuclear one. That’s right, the old scoundrel is tying the knot. In the tradition of Guys and Dolls and Grease, the lucky lady is a wholesome sort, the daughter of God-fearing Christians who are opposed to gay marriage and separation of church and state. They have family values. And they don’t need any damn liberal media to tell them otherwise. As Manson’s mother-in-law-to-be says, »I know [he’s] made lots of bad choices, but I don’t think he’s dangerous. The media has made him into more of a monster than he is.«

While at 80, Manson is over three times his fiancée’s age, one can’t deny that the two seem happy. During her weekly prison visits, 26-year-old Afton Elaine Burton delivers candy bars and other snacks that tickle Charlie’s sweet tooth. And she revels in his stylistic influence. Not only has she adopted the Manson-penned nickname Star (Squeaky was already taken, it appears), she’s emulated his actions during his murder trial and carved an X into her brow. Whether she’ll choose to modify it into a swastika as Manson later did, remains to be seen.

Of course, Star says it isn’t Manson’s alleged crimes that attracted her but his crusade to save the earth. Manson now leads what he calls the Air Trees Water Animal movement, taking as his inspiration an uncle who resisted FDR’s attempts to bring electricity to Appalachia. Over at, he calls himself a »political prisoner« who’s »tirelessly spoken out against the actions of industrial society« and attempted to live »in balance with the planet.« Intrigued by Manson’s words, Star saved up her dollars and seven years ago moved across the country to be closer to him. Now, with the prison having granted them the right to marry, she’ll be closer still. But not too close. The authorities deny Charlie conjugal visits.

Most people are treating the whole affair as a joke, cracking wise at the idea of a devil being domesticated. Where will Charlie and Star register? And what sort of gifts will they require? Steak knives? Certainly, Charlie has plenty of those. Or maybe they’d like a nice serving tray to be used on Thanksgiving? »Charlie, you carve the turkey. Then again, on second thought …«

Of course, it’s difficult to say what Charlie might actually want. Back in the 1960s, he hoped to instigate a race war, predicting it would bring on an apocalypse, and he used the music of The Beatles to justify it. He’s a man of contradictions, the former leader of a hippie commune called The Family who ordered his followers to kill a pregnant woman and cut the fetus out of her belly.

Not so funny, right? Well, here’s another thing that isn’t. During the same week that Manson’s wedding plans were announced, the new Republican-dominated Congress began flexing its muscles, threatening to overturn health initiatives, advances toward gay marriage, and various attempts to curtail global warming. The party of Family Values showed its true colors, fighting against families on at least three fronts: children would go uninsured, people in love would be condemned, and rivers would be poisoned and continue to leach into Mother Earth.

At his trial, Manson claimed that he didn’t hate anyone and that his Family was based on love. Well, the party of the family is back and its values are equally suspect, regardless of what it says in public. So do as Charlie advised, and listen to the songwriters: »Helter skelter / Helter skelter / Look out!«

Die übersetzte Version dieser Kolumne ist in SPEX N°358 erschienen. Das Heft ist jetzt am Kiosk oder versandkostenfrei im SPEX-Shop erhältlich.