Afton and Charles (Credit: Facebook)
The name Charles Manson has become synonymous with manipulation, a failed music career, murder and creepy cults since his rise to notoriety in the late '60s. Refresher? Manson declared himself a guru in San Francisco, attracted some followers, called them "The Family," moved them out to a remote location . . . and convinced them to kill people. Wealthy, celebrity-status people. Among the victims were pregnant actress Sharon Tate and heiress Abigail Folger, as well as Leno and Rosemary LaBianca—a successful business couple.* Manson and his followers were promptly caught and imprisoned. Despite rumors of Manson facing parole, dude's definitely in there for life.
Fast forward to 2014. Manson—now 80—has conned his way into scoring a new follower. Despite his years behind bars, he's still got the power to charm 20-somethings: 26-year-old Afton Burton pledges her absolute romantic allegiance to Manson. And now goes by "Star." And is in the process of trying to marry him. That's right: These two crazy kids were just approved for a marriage license. Now, though the duo isn't hitched yet, they must tie the knot within 90 days.
Burton "discovered" Manson when she was 16. Allegedly, she fell for his environmental "passion" project ATWA (Air Trees Water Animals). At last update, the site suggests that the group (Twitter following: 154 people. Just sayin') likes planting
ideas trees. It's extremely basic and it's not evident that much work has been done to save the planet. It's difficult to believe that she loves Manson solely based on his environmental "efforts." Conjugal visits can't happen in this case, so take your mind out of that scary gutter.
In any case, Burton is smitten. She helps run his personal media sites and spreads the "truth" about the devastating murders. Like an extreme version of that one love-deluded friend we've all had, Burton is full of excuses for Manson. Clearly, we just don't understand him: Everyone was mean to him! He's a political prisoner! He would never hurt anyone!
Reading Burton's words got me thinking. To the outside world, it's obvious that this poor girl was conned into Manson's web of manipulation and deceit. Yet to her, this love is real. When we're in love, a mix of hormones causes us to rationalize our beloved in our own minds. Even in the face of family persuasion and opinionated best friends, our feelings override all logic.
And this is, well . . . relatable.
All of this surfaces a question that, though difficult to answer, is important to ask: Is this despicable manipulator worthy of receiving love? And when the world turns its back on such a depraved person—as it rightly should—is it fair to berate those who are willing to show the criminal (who is still a human being) unwavering love and support?
At what point do we decide that someone has wronged humanity so much, they should be forever deprived of a basic emotional need?
* It's worth nothing that Manson was rejected by a music producer (despite his friendship with a Beach Boy) shortly before these high-profile murders took place.