Since the tragic shooting in Littleton, Colorado, news programs, talk shows and newspaper articles have attempted to answer the question, "Why?"
Marilyn Manson, with his musical messages of death and hate, is one of those being blamed. However, the self-proclaimed "Anti-Christ" and those like him are not the cause of the recent violence; they are the result of a larger problem.
What could have caused Manson, a Midwestern, Christian school-educated boy to become a demonic symbol, writing songs titled "Irresponsible Hate Anthem" with the lyrics, "My hate's a prism, let's just kill everyone and let your god sort them out"? And, more importantly, why are today's teens drawn to this message of despair? Why are they so angry, so hopeless and so eager for death?
In Manson's case, it was a culmination of many factors that caused him to hate, and in his words, "to lose respect for human life." Marilyn Manson is a by-product of his experiences, including the lack of familial support and interaction, Christian schools that were obsessed with evil and incessantly preached the apocalypse, a cross-dressing grandfather, and peer pressure. A brief review of Manson's youth illustrates how this typical boy-next-door became so angry and violent that he once thought that "taking someone's life seemed like a necessary growing and learning experience, like losing your virginity or having a child."
An influential factor in the life of Brian Warner-the boy who later adopted the name "Marilyn Manson"-was his Christian schooling. Despite his vehement protests and numerous attempts to be expelled, Manson was forced by his parents to attend a Christian school until high school. It was there, Manson learned about and became obsessed with death, the apocalypse, and the Anti-Christ. Frequent lectures on the imminent apocalypse gave him nightmares that continue to this day.
Rather than viewing school as an educating and morally-nurturing environment, Manson "began to resent Christian school and doubt everything [he] was told." As Manson writes in his biography, The Long Hard Road Out of Hell, he "never got over [his] resentment of Jesus traumatizing [him]." Later in life, Manson befriended Anton LaVey, the high priest of the Church of Satan. The duo had much in common having "dedicated the better part of [their] lives to toppling Christianity with the weight of its own hypocrisy."
By high school, Manson's mistrust of establishment and authority, particularly Christian religion, had taken root. Heavy metal music and the game Dungeons and Dragons became stepping stones to darker pursuits involving black masses and self-mutilation. Manson realized that black magic was feared, and those who were feared had power. Having been rejected at school and ridiculed at home, this power appealed to him.
Manson's feelings of isolation and anger were worsened by the poor relationship with his parents. His father and mother both worked, and when the father was home he was often violent and abusive. His mother, on the other hand, was over-indulgent. Despising her for raising a "mama's boy," Manson admits to hitting and choking her without remorse.
Adding to the instability of the family and Manson's disdain for hypocrisy was the secret life of his grandfather. As a boy, Manson would sneak into his grandfather's private domain, the basement. There he discovered pornographic magazines, adult sex toys and women's clothing and wigs. After revealing his findings, Manson's parents instructed him to remain silent, thus keeping the family's dirty secret.
Regardless, the damage had been done. The catastrophic impact is apparent in Manson's biography: "My grandfather had been the ugliest, darkest, foulest, most depraved figure of my childhood, more beast than human, and I had grown up to be him." In truth, he had. Manson, who often wears dresses and participates in deviant sexual behavior, is perceived by many as an aberration, a beast to be feared.
Without a positive family environment, Manson turned to peers to provide a sense of family and belonging. When his family moved to Florida, he became involved in the heavy metal music scene, and his band became his family. To accompany his new "family," he adopted a new name, "Marilyn Manson," choosing the name "Marilyn" from Marilyn Monroe and "Manson" from mass murderer Charles Manson, with whom he began identifying in high school. Describing Charles Manson as an "intellectual poet" and "gifted philosopher," Marilyn Manson considered him more of a father figure than his own.
While Marilyn Manson has not killed anyone, he does instill fear. And it is from this fear that he derives his power. To a misguided, isolated youth, the power of fear is seductive. The teens who are outcasts at school, ignored at home or force-fed religion and hypocrisy are drawn to Manson-he is one of them.
How do we prevent our children from becoming "one of them," children who are full of hatred and devoid of hope? The answer lies close to home in the loving environment created by parents who care and are there for their children. In today's fast-paced world, it is all too easy for parents to become consumed with everyday life and neglect the needs of their children-the basic need being intimate parental contact. This means that parents must spend not only "quality" time but a large "quantity" of time with their children.
It is a commitment we must make now. Otherwise, the future belongs to Marilyn Manson and those like him, who will follow.