Summon Joseph to my presence…
Joseph, let’s see how you do with this one. I had a dream last night. Well, actually, this morning, I suppose, since I was able to remember it when I woke. I remembered it quite clearly then, but it’s been several hours — affairs of state and such, you know. Pyramids to be built. Anyway, I’ll tell you what I still remember, and see if you can make sense of it.
I dreamed that I lived in a place called "South Carolina." Hard to describe what it was like; nothing like Egypt in any case. I realize context is important, suffice to say that within the dream at least I understood the context and the stakes of what was happening. I can do little better than that.
I was not myself. I was, if you can believe this, a scribe. Hah! Go ahead; you are permitted to laugh. Not an ordinary scribe, of course, but a sort of chief scribe. That’s what made the thing I did so odd. It seems that South Carolina was in the final weeks ("weeks" — see there; I’ve picked up an expression from your people) of a power struggle to see who would rule that strange land. These struggles occurred so frequently that they had a special word for it in their language: "Election."
Anyway, the present ruler was named "Sanford," and he had held power for only four cycles of the Nile. His position was secure, and yet it was hard to explain why. The lords of his own faction, the "republicans," held him in contempt, although few dared to oppose him openly. This seemed to be a function of their religion. They worshiped a god named "Reagan," and held elephants to be sacred. Any republican who opposed another in the marketplace was excommunicated, and earned the ever-lasting disapproval of Reagan.
He was opposed by a high priest of an jackass-worshiping cult called the "democrats." He was called "Tommy." This Tommy claimed to be motivated by a fire in his belly, yet somehow he had been unable to capitalize on the fact that Sanford had brought no blessings upon the land, and built no pyramids. The augerers said that Tommy still trailed by double-digits, whatever that meant.
I was very concerned, because my own auguries had told me that the land would be visited with plagues if Sanford ruled for another four cycles. I decided to seize power myself, as uncharacteristic as that might be for a scribe. From here on, I will try to describe it in the terms and concepts of that land and time, without pausing to explain. Here is what happened:
… I was walking along, thinking upon how to launch a last minute, independent, write-in campaign successfully — something one would only try to do in a dream, unless one is Bill Barnet. As I said, I was walking, and realized I was crossing a parking lot, and I was passing through a sparse crowd standing and looking at some spectacle to my left.
A sort of makeshift stage had been constructed on a flatbed trailer, with speakers on the sides and a microphone on a stand front and center. At the microphone — actually, holding the mike in his hand as he moved about — was a wizened man in an Uncle Sam costume. But this Uncle Sam wasn’t an object of patriotic pride. Rather, he was deliberately done up to be an ugly and contemptible figure. His movements, his tone, his expressions and everything he said were designed to inspire loathing in onlookers. It was clear, somehow, that he didn’t symbolize America in this characterization. Instead, he was supposed to be the personification of "government," and his intent was to get the audience to despise what he represented as much as he and his unseen masters despised it themselves. He was determined to persuade us that every man was an island, and that the idea of banding together to solve the problems that had plagued us in common for generations was foolishness.
I became increasingly angry at the way he was sullying not only America (at least indirectly, by using that costume), but the system of republican government that our forebears had striven and died for. I resolved that it was time to stop him before he succeeded in his aim of sowing despair in every heart there. So I mounted the stage, and took the microphone away from him. It was easy. I just grabbed it, and saw no more than a brief look of pure malice on the creature’s face as I turned away from him toward the people in the parking lot. I suppose he slithered away; I didn’t give him another thought.
I realized that my calculations about how and whether to enter the race for governor were behind me; I had just launched my campaign spontaneously, which as crazy as it was, felt more right than I would have thought. I raised the microphone to my face and turned to the people. As I opened my mouth to speak, I didn’t know what I would say, but I knew that the words would come to me.
But the people were no longer standing on a parking lot in the unblocked sun, and I was no longer on a flatbed trailer. I was on a broad, wraparound, covered front porch of the kind you see on houses built in South Carolina a century or so ago. The people were on a tree-shaded lawn, and I could see them easily over the tops of the neatly-trimmed azaleas planted around the porch. They had drinks in their hands, and I had the sense that they were sated with barbecue, and in the mood to listen on this pleasant late afternoon.
So I spoke, without pausing to think. I said things no politician in South Carolina had said before — true things, about the way things really are, and about the way they should be, and how it was that WE had the power in our hands to close the gap, if we would only set aside the stupid things that separated us and pulled together. I didn’t think about it at the time, but I suppose in retrospect that the crowd was of the sort that could afford to give to a campaign, the kind you see at high-rolling barbecues. I hadn’t set up the event, but was taking advantage of the opportunity to get my message out. It was well received.
I talked, and the crowd started changing, but I paid it no mind and kept talking. Gradually, I became aware that my listeners were now all black, and more interactive than the passive yuppie types that I had started with. It wasn’t just me on the porch speaking OUT to an audience. The audience was around me, and with me, and we were delivering the speech together somehow. I realized that my words were rhyming. This alarmed me for a second, as I thought the folks around me would think I was mocking them by acting out a stereotype, pretending to channel Jesse Jackson or some such. But I wasn’t doing that — I had started rhyming naturally, because the thoughts I was expressing were that poetic and harmonious; there was nothing prosaic about them. I also worried briefly that I wouldn’t be able to keep speaking the truth and making it rhyme. But I needn’t have worried. The words kept coming, without missing a beat, and the truth sounded truer than ever this way.
So I began to sing. And everyone began to sing with me, nobody missing a word or a beat, even though not a word was preplanned. We sang out truth, We sang out justice, We sang out the love between our brothers and our sisters, just like in the song. Only those weren’t the words, and that wasn’t the tune.
And then it was time to go forth and DO. So, singing and laughing together, pressed so close that it was hard to tell where one of us ended and the other began, we moved toward the porch steps. And we tripped on each other and tumbled down the steps, but we laughed because everyone was all right and it didn’t matter. And we kept singing the truth, and clapping, and moving together, and in that way we went forth…
… complete change of scene. I’m in a rambling house, loosely filled with people scattered about in each room. It’s my house, although it’s no house I’ve ever lived in in real life. The people are members of my family, and friends, and young-adult friends of my children. The initial excitement of the campaign is over. People are lethargic, passive, standing and sitting about in room after room in little conversational groups, talking about nothing in particular in low voices. The scene, now that I think about it, is visually a lot like the scene in "The Godfather" when Michael comes home after his father is shot, and everybody is sitting about in a state of uncertainty. Only maybe not quite as anxious.
This won’t do, I realize. There’s no time for coasting like this. I start hectoring people like a drill sergeant and herding them together to where I can speak to them all. I berate them for losing heart and forgetting their mission, for forgetting that we CAN win, but only if we act like we know it. I issue orders. I tell them all that this isn’t enough people, and certainly not enough activity, to get the job done. I tell every one of them to call ten friends, and tell each of THEM to call ten friends, and get them all busy — stuffing envelopes, knocking on doors, preparing signs, working up voter lists, doing phone banks. People come and go, and the house becomes more crowded and more hectic, but in a purposeful way that unmistakeably denotes progress. I get on the mobile phone to top strategists and fund-raisers from both the Republican and Democratic camps, people who I know are sick of the lousy choices their own parties present, people who are tired of the way things are, and who have the skills that a campaign needs.
The Unparty begins to actually take shape, and start acting like it knows it can win.
… time passes, still within the context of the few days left in the campaign, and numbers change. I get reports that Moore has dropped to below 20 percent of likely voters. Sanford still has the plurality, with something close to 40. The number of undecideds is dwindling. There are inklings that Moore may throw in the towel, and his supporters certainly wouldn’t go for Sanford. They’d either vote for me, or stay home. I am within reach. But I know that Moore doesn’t really want to quit, and he probably resents me, because he had felt he was in striking distance before I jumped in. As I walk through the bustling campaign HQ with the aides who had just brought me this news, on our way to an impromptu strategy meeting at which we will decide what to do in light of it, it occurs to me that Moore won’t just drop out. He’ll want something, I think. Two more things occur to me — first, that these people around me who have worked so hard to get to this point will want me to give him what he wants in order to cinch victory; second, that I really, really don’t want to. I want to keep speaking truth; I don’t want to compromise anything, even if that gets me to the place where I can start acting upon that truth.
I realize — even in dreams, it seems I am engaged in punditry — that the choice before me is to be like Moore or like Sanford. Moore would seek a deal to get something done. Sanford would decline to concede, and get nothing done. Neither approach had done South Carolina much good. There had to be another way, a better way. If there was any point in my running, it was to find that way. In a moment, we’d be in the meeting room, the door would close, and my most trusted supporters would turn to me to hear what I wanted to do. What would I say?
At that point, the dream ended.
So, Joseph, what do you make of that? Interpret it in a way that I can make practical use of it, and I’ll let you keep your head. Oh, lighten up! Don’t look at me that way — it was a joke, sort of. Just tell me what you make of my dream…