Dreams and Nightmares

​June 19, 2018

"Is a dream a lie if it don't come true, or is it something worse?"

-Bruce Springsteen, ​The River

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​John Forelli​

When I thought America was real, I was right, and I was wrong. America isn't amber waves of grain, it's not purple mountain majesties, and it's not fruited plains. America isn't a document, however eloquently written, and it's not a statue.

America is an idea--that people of all kinds can live together in peace, prosperity, and harmony when they are free. America is the mystic chord that ties us to the memories of our past and the dreams of our future.

The chords are fraying, my friends. Every successive day of Donald Trump's Presidency America becomes less like a dream and more like a nightmare. 

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There is a city in the northeastern United States of America. It can be found between a long island and the mainland, where a broad, choppy bay is bisected to form two distinct rivers. Within that bay is an island from which rises a statue. The statue is of a woman. She is tall, her body weathered, and her right arm proudly holds a flaming torch into the sky. 

The statue stands on a granite pedestal on which is a plaque that reads the following. 

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" 

Do you remember the day you stopped believing in Santa Claus? I do. I was eleven, and I was watching the movie Kate and Leopold. Meg Ryan's character (Kate) compares love to Santa Claus, calling it a "myth we've been told since childhood." 

Kate was only partly right. Love and Santa Claus are indeed myths, in that they cannot be manifested physically as a blender or as a dog can. You can't wrap love in a box, and you can't play fetch with Santa Claus (I'm not talking about the old man at the mall who makes your kids cry every December). 

But they do exist, don't they? They exist as much as a dog or blender do, in that murky mindspace of conscious thought that separates us humans from, well, dogs and blenders. We think about love and we think about Santa Claus, and that makes them real. 

Until recently I thought America was real. No, I knew America was real. It was as real as the Statue of Liberty. It was a real as the Liberty Bell. It was the place where freedom rings and anything is possible. 

Then, a few days ago, I heard about this. Immigrant families forcibly separated at the border, children taken away from parents with no guarantee of immediate reunification. Little kids have been recorded crying out for their mothers and fathers. You can do your own research, because just typing the words makes me nauseous. 

This is NOT America. I feel like Maximus in Gladiator: the Founders had a dream that was America--this is not it. THIS IS NOT IT. 

We can argue about lots of stuff. We can argue about taxes, healthcare, military spending, whatever. There are some things that are beyond argument. Some truths are sacred and undeniable. Self-evident, one might say. The evil of wrenching young children from their parents is one of those things. Separating families is wrong, full stop. 

What are we even doing as a country if we can't agree on that?