TAMPA, February 13, 2013 – “Are you to be happy, while I grovel in the intensity of my wretchedness? You can blast my other passions; but revenge remains, – revenge, henceforth dearer than light or food! I may die; but first you, my tyrant and tormentor, shall curse the sun that gazes on your misery. Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful. I will watch with the willingness of a snake, that I may sting with its venom. Man, you shall repent of the injuries you inflict.”
While far more eloquent, one cannot help but see the parallels between the declaration of war upon Victor Frankenstein by the monster he created and Chris Dorner’s erratic “manifesto.” Dorner’s entire story parallels Mary Shelley’s classic, with tragic results and ominous foreboding.
Like the monster, Dorner was “created” by the military-police complex. They may not have endowed him with life, but they made him into the trained killing machine that was both willing and able wage war upon them. Dorner felt wronged by his creator and swore to avenge himself, willing to exact that revenge both upon those he had self-pronounced “guilty” and upon innocents whose suffering or death would cause the guilty pain. Like Shelley’s demon, Dorner’s life ended in fiery death (more like the movie than the novel).
Shelley’s characters are more sympathetic than those of Dorner’s tragic story. The monster suffers years of real torment before resorting to the murder of Frankenstein’s loved ones, including his brother, an innocent child, and his young wife. The reader still doesn’t condone the murders, but at least sympathizes somewhat with the murderer. Not so with Dorner. Although some or all of his accusations against the LAPD may have been true, it is impossible to either understand or condone his disproportionate response.
The government falls short of Shelley’s title character as well. Unlike the targeted members of the LAPD, Victor Frankenstein does not cower in his house under paramilitary protection. He hunts the monster he created alone, unafraid to confront him, without endangering innocent bystanders. He also understands and admits that he was wrong to create the monster in the first place. In contrast, the military-police complex shot three innocent people in its panicky response and will likely push to be even more dangerously armed and empowered as a result of this tragedy.
If the parallel to Shelley’s story stopped with the LAPD or even the law enforcement community in general, it would not be so ominous. But this little morality play is not simply a warning to law enforcement to “be careful who you train and what you train them to do.” It is a metaphor for our entire society.
As Anthony Gregory reminds us, “We are all Branch Davidians Now.” We are all subject to being monitored and hunted by drones, searched without warrant, kidnapped and detained without appeal to a judge for a writ of habeas corpus, and even summarily executed without a guilty verdict or even a jury trial. As Emma Hernandez and Margie Carranza can tell you, we may not even be the subject of the monster’s wrath but still be destroyed by its fury.
The monster’s reign of terror isn’t limited to our personal safety, either. It claims ownership of our property as well, taking what it deems it needs and letting us keep what it does not need…today. It claims the authority to tell us what we may and may not ingest into our own bodies, what activity we are allowed to engage in and what it prohibits as “unsafe,” what terms we make in voluntary contracts with others and what terms we may not, even if both parties agree.
It dictates the way in which our children will be educated and medically cared for and threatens to seize them from us if we do not comply. It then sends them on military missions thousands of miles away to kill or be killed by people who have never attacked us.
It is even more terrifying because it does not know it is evil. Most individuals who make it up believe that they are serving the public. Some cops join the force because they relish the license to bully, but most do not. Likewise for most soldiers. Rhetoric aside, I do not believe Barack Obama or George Bush are evil people.
On the contrary, an empowered state with the active or passive consent of the people makes good people do very evil things. Preemptive war, preemptive law enforcement, preemptive government in general – in other words, violence against the innocent – all become morally justifiable under the sacred mantle of the law. How easily we forget Thomas Jefferson’s warning that “the law is often but the tyrant’s will.”
The all-powerful state is a monster and we are its Frankenstein, whether we’ve actively taken part in creating it or simply stood idly by while others did so under our noses. We would be wise to dismember it now, before we meet the same fate as Shelley’s tragic hero.
Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.