“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”
And nothing is so detrimental to the health of a great commonwealth as a great and sudden misuse of law.
The preceding quote comes from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the first great dark romantic / Gothic novel. It was written at the ripe age of twenty from an idea born of a scary story-telling contest with her soon-to-be husband, Percy Bysshe, and his friend, the very famous George Gordon, Lord Byron. Also present was whomever Byron was dating that hour.
Rumor has it that on this same fateful weekend Byron concocted one of the first vampire stories, which is appropriate considering his own voracious appetites. But Mary won the contest with a story of a man so bent on obtaining knowledge and pursuing the idea of recalling life that he created something so unnatural that he defied the laws of nature.
Now to even call what Sen. Phil Berger and Rep. Tim Moore have done to be even subpar to what Mary Shelley had Victor do in her novel would be a disgrace to Mrs. Shelley’s brilliance, and even Victor’s, who is not even a real person. For that matter, it would be an insult to the fictitious monster who never gets a name but shows so much more logic (and at times regard for human life) than what many in our North Carolina General Assembly have displayed within the last few years.
That does not mean that FrankenMoore and BergerStein have not spent a few nights in special sessions behind closed doors concocting experiments with the law and the state constitution to create what has become a monster of a political landscape here in North Carolina. But unlike Victor who recognizes the effects of his actions and hubris, the leaders of the NCGA GOP have not yet understood that they have created a monster themselves that is hurting our citizens.
If you have never read the classic novel, it actually is one of the most well-framed books of all time. There are three narrators – Captain Walton, Victor Frankenstein, and the Monster.
Captain Walton is leading a foolhardy quest to the North Pole. He has been writing letters to his sister and then by chance encounters Victor.
Victor relates to him his own story of hubris-filled questing in rather painful detail and even narrates what the monster relates to him within his own story.
You got it – a man tells the story of a man who tells his story and includes what his creation told him in his story that the first man is telling to his sister in a series of letters.
And since we have already established that Berger and Moore could not be Frankenstein or the monster, they must be more aligned with Capt. Walton.
And they are. Because they are on the cusp of a tipping point with their own monster.
Early in the novel Capt. Walton makes this statement to his sister,
“One man’s life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought, for the dominion I should acquire and transmit over the elemental foes of our race” (Letter 4).
Substitute the words “political Power” for “knowledge” and “government” for “race” and you pretty much have the exact image of what has happened in North Carolina these last few years.
- Consider the special sessions that gave North Carolina the blemish of HB2.
- Consider the Voter ID Law.
- Consider the Gerrymandering.
- Consider the attack on the Public Schools.
- Consider the special session that brought SB4.
Recently Jonathan Katz in Politico Magazine wrote an expose on North Carolina entitled, “In North Carolina, Some Democrats See Their Grim Future.” While it is not the type of reading one wants to have for the holidays, it did prove eye-opening considering that it specifically points out the “monster” that people like Phil Berger have created and now are having a hard time containing.
The first two paragraphs read,
“In the end, even Phil Berger, the powerful Republican leader of North Carolina’s Senate, couldn’t stop the debacle. A state law that effectively banned legal protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people—a law he’d pushed through the statehouse less than a year before—had become such a national embarrassment that even he wanted to see it repealed. But the far-right members of his caucus, happily ensconced in ultra-safe Republican districts he’d help draw, saw no reason to back a full repeal, and what was supposed to be a last-minute deal with the incoming Democratic governor fell apart.
“I cannot believe this,” Berger said, throwing down his microphone and slumping back into his leather chair at the front of the senate chamber, as the last session of the year came to a close, the stain still indelibly affixed to his state’s reputation, and his own (http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/12/in-north-carolina-some-democrats-see-the-future-214553).
That is no stain. That is a full-fledged monster.
Fortunately for Capt. Walton, Victor’s story does help convince him that his quest for fame and power is ill-fated and will do more harm than good. Victor lived the experience that Walton would learn from to spare him and his crew a life doomed to death and despair.
And while there has been no Victor Frankenstein that has appeared out of the tundra of North Carolina to teach Moore and Berger their lessons, there have been instances where some sort of Ancient Mariner has come to halt them in their baseless quests: the courts.
- They did it with the Voter ID Law.
- They did it with the gerrymandered districts.
- They have intervened with due-process rights for veteran teachers.
- They will have a say on HB2.
- And now they have placed a temporary hold in Wake County on the effects of SB2.
What 2017 holds for this state may actually be a blueprint for how other states may begin to proceed with their own political voyages.
However, it may also be the beginning of an end because if the citizens of North Carolina are tired of being passengers on an ill-fated expedition, then those voices may begin to get louder and ironically, we have election day again in 2017 because of the courts, at least for a few districts.
Probably one of the most haunting quotes in Shelley’s novel occurs in Chapter 20 when the monster, mad at Victor for destroying a would-be companion, warns Victor,
“It is well. I go; but remember, I shall be with you on your wedding-night.”
Maybe in this instance, it will come back on election night.