It's the 200th anniversary of the tale of the patch-work man. You know it better as Frankenstein. Author Mary Shelley sat down in 1818 to create a story about a patch-work man and ultimately penned the story about trying to answer fundamental questions about life itself. Now, I'll warn you, the book is remarkably different than the popularized black and white film — full of sparking electrodes and a square, brutish monster. Shelley's actual work is much more contemplative and, at least in my experience, difficult to read all the way through. Although, I believe I read the 1831 edition, which I'm told differs slightly from the original print.
That said, it's actually a very sad story about Dr. Frankenstein, the horror he immediately feels in creating a being with uncanny size and strength, whose shadow the doctor seems doomed to live in for the rest of his days. You see, the monster becomes intelligent as it matures, for lack of a better word, and becomes bitter in the realization it was rejected by its own creator. It seeks out Frankenstein, makes demands of him and turns to threats when Frankenstein refuses and continues to run from his creation. Ultimately, the story concludes with Frankenstein dead and the monster traversing across the ice of the Arctic Ocean, unsure if death will take him or if Frankenstein's work has robbed him of that as well.
Perhaps I should have put a "Spoiler Alert" before that paragraph, but it's been out for 200 years. You had your chance.
And so did we.
This year is not only the bicentennial of Shelley's book, it marks the beginning of the second year for the Trump administration. In fact, as of Saturday, he will have occupied the White House for exactly one year. This first chapter was punctuated by the real possibility of a partial government shutdown. As one might expect, the polarized partisan nature of Capitol Hill is being blamed for the gridlock, though the president did suggest in a tweet last May the country could use a shutdown that September. Regardless, it seems the parties are blamed for just about everything that gets held up in legislative limbo these days. It doesn't make legislators happy and it certainly doesn't make the public happy.
We are rejecting our creation. We stitched together the patch-work government in late 2016. We melded the three branches with some blue here and some red there and a few grafts of yellow and green to fill the seams. Then we stood back in horror as we beheld our creation. Yet, like Frankenstein, there is nothing we can do at this point.
(Author's note: those words are also a product of the Hollywood adaptation)
Our creation is capable of both good and bad, just like an individual. But it's the size and nature of the beast we fear. We are at once thrilled by what it can do for us and terrified of what it can do to us. We may marvel at our creation's ability to taste, touch, wonder and even love but, at other times, we may just as easily be terrified of the strength with which it does such things — not knowing the fear it can create in us or the pain it can cause us in pursuing what it believes will please its creators. And that's what we are. With each election, we remove certain parts and sew on new ones. Yet, we as individuals will one day pass away and the creation will live on. Perhaps forever.
The glimmer of hope in all this is that our creation, like Frankenstein's, is capable of learning as it matures. The responsibility falls to us, the creators, to teach our creation the lessons it must learn and the values it must remember.