“. . . a wonderful dream, Papa.” See what those four words can do? “I had a dream” is the key to unlocking one’s inner Ethel Merman. Say those four words in my hearing, and I may spontaneously finish your thought in my Best Broadway Belting voice “a dream about you, baby.”
And you’ll be lucky if I run out of steam before I get all the way through “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” because my BBB voice is not really A+.
From “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” to “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” we’re inundated with the dream in music. Stevie Wonder told us to “Hold On to Your Dream,” and then the Electric Light Orchestra did him one better by imploring us to hold on tight to your dream.
Every awards show features one, if not several, winners admonishing us not to give up on our dreams, a task made immeasurably easier when one is picking up an Oscar, an Emmy or a Tony. (I don’t watch the Grammys—Grammies?—since I don’t know those people anymore.) But are all dreams really worth holding on to, tightly or otherwise?
The field of candidates for the Democratic nomination for president is full of people with a dream. If one of those dreams comes true, we could have an historic first candidate who could be some combination of black, Latino, gay and female. There’s even a Hindu candidate.
But even with all that diversity, half of the field is still straight white guys, many of whom seem to have seen Johnny Whitaker sing “Every Little Boy Can Be President” and took it to heart. (Back when Family Affair was on the air the “straight” and “white” were understood, but silent.)
Besides, the participation trophies just for running a good, but losing, campaign sometimes come in the form of cabinet appointments—if your party wins.
Many Democrats themselves have a dream of an ideal candidate with perfectly articulated policies and positions on every one of the myriad of issues that have been collectively deemed progressive while others want a warrior leader who will focus on beating Trump and cook up the policy on an as-needed basis. The former is saying, “Tell us what you’re for, not just what you’re against” to which the latter replies, “Ok, we’re for removing Trump from office, bitch.”
Republicans aren’t dreaming about the candidate (that’s baked in), but many of them are dreaming about totally closed borders and not having to hear the family at the next table at the Golden Corral speaking Spanish. By the way, that family was probably in Texas before Stephen F. Austin came with the first of the Old Three Hundred in 1821. Just saying.
But the flip side of any dream is the nightmare. For many Americans, it’s occurring in real time. The institutions that have been the bulwarks of the American democracy (the free press, the separation of powers, the rule of law) are under deliberate attack by any objective measure.
The response to this should be a full-throated effort by those who value our Republic to defend those institutions. Instead, we are in a deeply troubling situation in which the future will be determined, not by our professed values and ideals, but by which political party outmaneuvers the other one.
At least once a month, I have a real night terror. Earlier this week, another one invaded my sleep state. It began when I arrived at the office to work. (This should have been the first signal I was in a nightmare.) When I walked in, I found my co-workers split into two groups. One group was elated, the other was wringing their hands. When I asked one of my colleagues what was wrong, she told me that Donald Trump had bought the company.
Looking around, I saw that everyone’s computers had a Trump screensaver, and then some workmen came in to hang a portrait of him on the main wall of the office. Some people began to cheer, and the others began to weep and wail. The next thing I knew, Karl showed up and started shaking me. “Wake up! You’re having a bad dream.”
No kidding. I need the Merm to loan me one of hers.