This is an election year, so the mantra by both parties has to do with restoring to all citizens the right to have the American dream. No one has yet, or ever will, define precisely what that term means, probably because it means widely diversified things to a wildly diversified population, or nothing at all. But, it has such an ethereal, almost mystic, mesmerizing sound that it has become a vital part of every politician's rhetorical repertoire. The interpretation is left up to the listeners, the eyes of whom (at least most of whom) are perennially glazed over and rolled upward in the presence of the dulcet tones of the actually meaningless phrase. Their eardrums have long since hardened and become immune to those tones, so that their non-message to the brain is thankfully muted, if not altogether interdicted.
One might wonder what the American dream would be to some of the politicians who at one time or another are bound to refer to it. The current 9/11 Commission members, nearly all of whom have been politicians, might conceive of it as being that state in which they would know what the commission's staff is doing, if anything, and what it intends to make public, in time for them to stop it, if necessary. At present, the commission folks are having nightmares, not dreams, the situation not helped much when a co-chairman mentioned recently that he, at least, didn't read beforehand what the staff would say. Strange…and all the more so since the staff got it all wrong the other day with its assessment of the administration's position vis-a-vis the non-collusion-9/11-hookup of Saddam and Osama bin Laden.
One wonders if Howard Dean might wish he could have an "I didn't scream dream" as an American dream with which he might have been in better shape upon leaving Iowa for the frozen North, where the scream haunted his every move, and the TV media repeated constantly the "I Have A Scream," speech, ironically delivered on the anniversary of M.L. King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech.
The American dream for John Kerry might be one in which Teresa either throws a hundred million bucks into his campaign or pays off his "mortgage," or both, and Saddam escapes, exchanges the Republican Guards for the Republican Party, and is nominated to run with George Bush on a ticket with the slogan "Let the Heads Roll!"
For his American dream, President Bush might have a vision of John Kerry throwing his or someone else's medals, ribbons, and skis out his office window and having them fall on the head of Bill Clinton as he walks to a book-signing on the Capitol steps, yelling "I didn't have sex with that woman, no matter what is is!" For his American dream, Vice President Cheney might wish for a speech in which GWB pronounces nuclear correctly and doesn't say "uh" more than once a sentence, thus exhibiting the gravitas with which Cheney was supposed to infuse him.
Vice presidential hopeful John Edwards might wish for an American dream including solid backing by the malpractice-lawyer associations and a 500-car pileup on I-40 just outside Charlotte that brings him 3 billion cool ones in fees of every kind. Former vice president Al Gore might favor an American dream in which the crooked Florida Supreme Court, using the 101st Airborne, replaces the U.S. Supreme Court and declares him president retroactively, whereupon he is inaugurated wearing earth-tones and sneakers.
Former prexy hopeful Al Sharpton might have an American dream wherein he gets Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition, along with Jackson's millions, address book, and an affidavit to the effect that Rudy Giuliani dreamed up that whole Tawana Brawley thing to make him look bad and take him out of consideration as the first African-American pope, if and when. Fellow hopeful Ralph Nader might see in his American dream the headline of November 4 stating "Third-party Candidate Does It Again," with a sub-head, "Democrats Riot in San Francisco," with a sub-sub-head, "Michael Moore Threatens To Leave Country," and a third sub-head, "Floridians Learn How to Vote."
Senator Harkin might wish for an American dream in which he is allowed to conduct all the funerals of Senate democrats, using his "Wellstone technique," incorporating the "Dean Scream" as worship, liturgy, eulogy, and campaign-theology. Fellow senator and partner in crime Ted Kennedy might hear in his American dream Senator Leahy leaking to the press and all ships at sea his determination that Kennedy has an IQ of 500, while Senator Clinton might have an American dream ablaze with two million volumes of hubby Bill's book illuminating a huge billboard with the caption IS Ain't IS.
Senator Bobby Byrd could see in his American dream himself dressed in his former garb of the KKK and staring down in a hearing at Donald Rumsfeld and proclaiming that the Secretary of Defense is a racist, for jumping on those poor imprisoned Iraqis and causing them Post Abu Ghraib Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
Saddam Hussein probably would have an American dream of his own, maybe of Uday and Qusay, his monster sons, going down in a hail of bullets from the American GIs while he takes it easy in the rat-hole and sees Paul Bremer's head rolling down Baghdad Avenue and his favorite WMDs eroding in a bank vault in Damascus.
Yeah, the American dream sounds great. Now, if someone could just decide how to make all the American dreams come true…