An Interview with Frankenstein


All Hallows Eve is the time when the thin silver thread that divides life and death, divides fact from fantasy from flesh, disappears. It is a time when imaginary beings come to life. As I write this, that time is almost over in the Central Time Zone. I worried for a moment that I would not be able to finish my interview with Frankenstein before the dividing line returned. However, Frankenstein, contrary to his persona, is a gentleman in every sense of the word, and he made sure to speak to me before the dividing line re-emerged, and we would not be able to communicate again until next year.
I must confess that these last two days have been difficult for me. I have been depressed. Just sad. I cannot quite put my finger on the reasons for my melancholy state. The weather where I live has finally turned to fall, and the past two days have been a gloomy gray. I am sad for my country, heartbroken for the United States of America. The perp-walks have begun. Indictments of people close to the Trump campaign for president are facing charges. One has pleaded guilty. I thought that this would make me happy, but it does not. I am happy that our system of checks and balances on corruption and power is working, or at least, it has the possibility of working if justice is served.
At the same time, it is a sad commentary on the state of our nation. Some of us resist daily the various ways that the United States of America allows injustice. We defend the right to protest, the right of NFL players to take a knee. We question the sanity of John Kelly, Trump’s chief-of-staff when he lies on a member of Congress or “misremembers” in a pathetic attempt to shield Trump. Now he says that the Civil War happened because the two sides could not compromise. What kind of compromise does he imagine? We resist the laws that are being passed under the radar, laws that allow Internet providers to sell our browsing history without our knowledge or consent and without compensation to us. We resist the law just passed that takes away the right of bank customers to join in class action suits. Trump is taking away the requirement that employers provide funding for contraceptives, and we will not begin to think about the various ways that this administration is weakening the EPA and other agencies intended to protect people. Immigration authorities want to hold a sick child in custody, preparing to deport her.
I say and say again that we get the government we deserve.
That was yesterday. Today, another human being decided that it was his duty to commit a mass killing. He thought it was his responsibility to some ideology, to some way of thinking that makes the murder of other human beings not only thinkable, but justifiable. All of this was on my mind when I finally was able to connect with Frankenstein. Here is a portion of our conversation.
VED: Mr. Frankenstein, I want to thank you for taking the time to speak to me today. I know that Halloween must be a busy time for you.
FRANKENSTEIN: Please, you do not have to call me mister. Frankenstein is enough. I am happy to be with you.
VED: Let me begin with today’s terrible news about another mass killing in New York City. This time, it was a young man driving a truck in a space for bicyclists and pedestrians. What is your opinion of this type of violence?
FRANKENSTEIN: First let me explain that I have lived many lives. Since I am a character of the human imagination, I come into existence at different moments in history in different forms. I exist to bring certain archetypes into focus so that humanity can see outside its own mind its deepest fears, dreams, desires, and capabilities.
In my first incarnation, in Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly’s novel, I was a murderer. I accidentally killed a young boy. An innocent woman was convicted of the crime. Then I killed as a matter of revenge. I killed my creator’s best friend and his bride. These were not mass killings. I did not kill for ideological reasons. I killed because of my own pain. The old saying is true: “Hurt people hurt people.” Human beings do harm out of their own pain.
VED: To what extent would you consider yourself human?
FRANKENSTEIN: Completely. I was a figment of Mary Shelly’s imagination. And I have been a part of the imaginings of human beings both before and since. Victor Frankenstein is another Prometheus. I am his insult to the gods. I am a golem, a human creation, an inanimate come to life. Even in the stories, I am a human creation. I am a result of humanity’s hubris. And there are consequences to this.
VED: And what are the consequences of humanity’s hubris that your existence helps us to see.
FRANKENSTEIN: The first consequence is that the creatures we create – monster, hero, angel, demon– will at some point come for us. The second consequence is that there is a price to pay for pushing people to the margins. In my first life, my creator looked upon me with horror and cast me out. I was ugly. I was an aberration, but I was not this to myself. People ran from me. They wanted to harm me because they did not know me. They did not know what I was. When I found a place of shelter and rest, and I was able to observe the life of a poor family, I thought that I may have found a home. I contributed to their well-being, bringing firewood to their door. I learned language and how to read from watching them, all the time hidden.
I found books and read them. I especially enjoyed “Plutarch’s Lives.” But, I had no one to talk to. I did not know the warmth of a human touch. I felt no love. When I did try to make myself known to them, first to the blind father, I was driven away. Again, my hideous exterior was enough to make me something that frightened the women and made the men want to kill me.
Every time this happened, I felt the pain of rejection deeply. I had no way to heal myself of my loneliness. I demanded that my creator make me a companion. I wanted another being who would be just like me, someone with whom I could share my life, the joys and the sorrows. He promised me he would. He started. Then he decided that he would not. I promised revenge, and I kept my promise.
VED: So how does this help us to understand killers who kill in the name of Daesh or killers who decide that they will take a collection of guns to a Las Vegas hotel room and kill some 59 people and wound over 500?
FRANKENSTEIN: Usually these killers are lonely men. Yes they have families, sometimes wives and children or girlfriends. My guess is that at some point in their lives, someone made them feel as if they were monsters. Someone pushed them to the margins of society. Someone made them feel that they were not truly loved. Someone made them feel insignificant. When mass killings happen, human imagination fails. I hear talk of more police, more safety precautions, more barriers, more inspection points or travel bans. The only thing I can say is when you meet someone, give them the respect and the love and the welcome that you would want. Take a moment and see what books they like to read, what music they like to hear, what are their hopes and dreams. Make them feel as if they are part of the human family.
VED: That is hard advice to hear on a day like today. We want revenge.
FRANKENSTEIN: Vengeance is self-destructive. It drove me even further from community. It drove Victor Frankenstein insane as he went chasing after me. Justice is necessary, but it is important to try to stop the next mass murderous event.
VED: Let us end on a lighter note. Of all of your various iterations, which do you like best?
FRANKENSTEIN: I have two: I like the movie “The Bride” because in that one I get a beautiful woman who is my soul mate. I get a good friend, Renaldo. Little children are not afraid of me, and I come in contact with an honest merchant. My very favorite is “Young Frankenstein”.
VED: And why is that?
FRANKENSTEIN: Because I get to dance in top hat and tails
VED: Frankenstein again, thank you for spending this time with me.
FRANKENSTEIN: You are quite welcome. I hope we have an opportunity to speak again.
Valerie Elverton Dixon is founder of and author of “Just Peace Theory Book One: Spiritual Morality, Radical Love, and the Public Conversation.”

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