I recently had an incredible dream. It involved mostly characters I know, but also some I didn’t know. With some dreams, if I even remember them, I rarely know what they “mean” but this one was crystal clear and was a perfect illustration of why empires fall and why its former subjects suffer.
In my dream I was visiting my father, a veteran who served just prior to Viet Nam. The first scene took place during an air show. Because my father’s house (in this dream) had a vantage point to the airfield, we weren’t at the air show but were watching it through a huge picture window. A big, green C-130, retrofitted with newer turbo props had taken off and flown right over the house. It passed so closely that I could see the pilot’s facial expressions as the plane buzzed low over the house. He was followed by a small single-engine Cessna. His pass over us preceded a diving turn into the valley below as preparation for a pass over the airfield behind us.
My father tapped my shoulder and handed me a cable and a pair of binoculars. His hand motions reminded me of a flight attendant’s as he indicated I was to plug the cable into the binoculars. The cable connected into a laptop sitting on a high table. As I looked through the binoculars, the image was being projected onto the laptop’s screen and presumably could have been recorded. I thought it was fairly nifty and went back to peering through the glasses. As the cargo-plane approached on its way back to the airfield, it filled my vision and I was overwhelmed with dread. In a flash, I threw down the glasses and ran toward the door while yelling for everyone to "get out!" I was certain the plane was going to hit the house. My fears were only half-realized. The airplane didn’t crash into the house but instead onto the runway of the airfield. As I ran out the door, I saw that it had passed over the airfield and was turned back toward me. I made it outside just in time to see it explode in a ball of fire. The Cessna pilot appeared to panic. The little single-engine plane abruptly nose-dived into the tarmac as if in exasperation for there was no other course of action.
As I looked on in horror, I could hear my sister and a cousin who has been dead now for almost ten years, sobbing in the background. We turned on the news but the women were not going to have any of that. To have such a tragedy re-told by such blankly-countenanced people after having personally witnessed it would be too immoral to bear. They never said a word really. Their cries only intensified when the television set came on and thus it was immediately turned off.
We didn’t know what to do with ourselves, so we did what any dysfunctional family might do after such an event: we went to the mall. Not just any mall. This was some huge monstrosity that looked more like an amusement park than the traditional, nondescript mall of my youth. As is also typical in such places, the family got separated. Alone and lost, I was soon elated to discover that John McCain was going to have a political rally somewhere in the mall. Maybe I could ask him a question… The ticket masters in my dream were the envy of my waking life. I was able to walk right up to the front of the stage. About 40 people were milling around just as they announced John McCain’s arrival. The dream was so vivid; I could make out the vertebrae through his beige windbreaker as he walked up the short row of stairs to the stage. He moved like he was made of steel rather than flesh. There wasn’t an ounce of spryness in the man and he carried a smirk that could coat your pancakes.
I immediately raised my hand and gave a shout. “Mr. McCain, I have a question, sir. I know you won’t like what I’m about to ask…”
“Oh, don’t tell me you’re with that Jason fella from last week,” he replied.
“No," (I was expecting him accuse me of being a Ron Paul supporter) "it’s not that… A while back you mentioned that we might be in Iraq for 100 years. You said that if our boys weren’t getting killed, we shouldn’t mind that we had troops there for even 10,000 years. Well, I was wondering, why shouldn’t we mind? Even if we weren’t losing any soldiers and the Iraqis were delivering flowers to our troops on a daily basis, aren’t we going to be paying the costs of that war and occupation for the years in question? How are we going to afford it?”
As I asked my question, McCain was slowly backing away wearing that fake smile until he was just a person milling at the back of the stage — more like the set of a play. There were building faades around the edges such as you’d see at a Disneyland ride or a themed restaurant. There were other people back-stage and suddenly, John McCain wasn’t addressing the crowd anymore but trying to blend in with the staff. Some slick campaign representative in his 50s, swinging a golf-club as he spoke, stepped up and tried to answer the question and take control of the event. I saw I wasn’t going to get a straight answer and walked away.
I reached for my cell-phone. As I dialed my father’s number, I saw him in the distance standing to put in his ear-bud. Instead of talking, I waved and hung up the phone. My sister found us a bit later at the mall caf with the plastic chairs, though in this case it appeared to be a bit higher class than what you’d find in an average mall. There were big umbrellas protruding from the tables. Anyway, because my father is somewhat of a George Bush fan, and I like my family reunions to be as uncomfortable as possible, I excitedly told him how he had missed the chance to see John McCain, the presumed Republican nominee and terminal Strangelove.
As I relayed what had happened and just as I was getting to McCain’s disappearance, a man I’d never met leaned in to speak at my father’s ear. He was tall, young-looking, had long, blond hair and was wearing a faded blue jump suit. His mustache was thin, of the kind that looks as though it’s been combed over the lip but once arrived at its destination, the individual hairs have lost interest in any solidarity with the others. He talked and chuckled, making sure I would overhear that in a “hundred years” he and my father would be drawing military pensions.
I was incredulous. I looked like I was trying to catch bugs with my open mouth. Finally, through shock and outrage, I was able to blurt out a rejoinder; “In a hundred years, you’ll be dead. That has to be the worst reason I have ever heard to support a war: so you can draw a check!”
I didn’t get to elaborate. The man’s head sank toward his chest as if he was deliberating on a problem. He then stood up and made motions as if he were going to strike a blow. Thinking I could never be flabbergasted twice in such short succession, my mouth dropped open again. I finally managed to say, “Come on, man. You can’t be serious. That’s your idea of fighting words?”
The man blinked, hesitated for a moment and then backed away. He was clearly expecting a different response. I was scared for a moment. When a big man steps up to you like that, the adrenaline flows, but it was so ridiculous, I could only take it half seriously. Of course, it was just a dream. But then, my father, after a short conference, decided he might be more successful. He stepped forward and put up his fists.
I woke up though I was still formulating things to shout at these two men that would let both know how utterly immoral and bizarre their behavior and reasoning. Once I realized that it was a dream, I was a bit disappointed. I was just getting started.
Later, I reflected on the dream’s meaning. It illustrated to me what is most wrong about empires in general and our political situation in the U.S. specifically. The military aircraft represented the empire and the little Cessna the citizenry. The Empire’s crash will be felt by many of us. Those who see a crisis coming and are prepared for it may make it through relatively unscathed. Those who continue to put any stock in the Old Media’s talking heads are in for a shock. The smirking pilot and the smirking politician need no explanation really. Our “leadership” believes that they will not be affected by their decisions and they don’t really care how their poor decisions affect anyone else.
In spite of the fact that we hear a large majority is against foreign meddling, election results tend to indicate that a good number of our citizens have no problem with the Empire’s wars as long as there is some perceived financial benefit. Critics like to put blame on our leaders and characterize certain among them as aberrations. But these leaders are not unlike the society they came from at all. They act in the way that they act because we as individuals generally share their values. We are not sufficiently outraged it would appear to rise up and demand that a different moral compass be applied.
It isn’t as if we’re any different than subjects of the Romans, the Huns, the Mongols or the English. All empires have been filled with domesticated citizens who learned — the hard way — that sitting back idly was just as dangerous as standing up to protest their government’s behavior. The difference was simply when and how the crises unfolded.
My father — he isn’t a violent man but is an authority figure to me — and the other veteran in the dream were representative of those who are willing to use intimidation and fear rather than reason. When you show them that you aren’t scared, they back away. Perhaps they wrongly assume that people like me, who oppose wars of aggression on moral grounds, are in reality opposed to war because we are cowards or perhaps they think that intimidation is the only way to make people “understand” their point of view. Frankly, I believe it is a sign of fear and a lack of confidence in one’s moral and intellectual position to resort to violence or threats in order to make a point.
Where personal intimidation techniques represent the virtual microcosm, the macro of the same behavior is represented in our foreign policies. The one difference is that the unafraid opponent is not given any quarter. I fear that Iran, a beautiful country, will be ruined by people who could never imagine that their actions are wrong or immoral. They are in the throes of executing a plan and behave exactly as would John Dewey’s Pragmatists in these situations. Their idea of a “greater good” — knowingly or unwittingly false — renders morality an irrelevant artifact.
As I reflected on this, I became very thankful for the people who have embraced the moral view and refused to use intimidation or fear — men and women dedicated to peace and freedom who lead by example. I still maintain a great deal of hope for the Ron Paul Revolution. This nation has to turn from ways that have failed us all. We will either be forced into this, or make a conscious and deliberate decision to do so. More than likely the criminal policies of the economic central planners in Washington and New York will be the cause for our epiphany. Whatever happens, I’m convinced that there is a very motivated and dedicated minority that still values freedom. If we have to face catastrophe in order to rise once again as a peaceful and prosperous nation, then I am happy to remain in the company of dreamers who propelled Ron Paul’s candidacy these past months.