Last night’s dream

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…

21 thoughts on “Last night’s dream

  1. Mary Rosh

    Holy ****! You can’t volunteer at the VA because it would take away time from your writing things like this!!!!?!?!?!?!?!?

  2. Will McDonald

    Uh, Brad, you probably should have done a quick google search of the term “ass worshiping” before you used it in your blog. On the bright side, you have made Tommy Moore and his gang sound a lot more interesting than his TV commercials would indicate!

  3. Brad Warthen

    Jackass! Hey, pharoah didn’t have Google.
    It’s interesting how people seem to expect something in particular from the blog, and want to hold it to a standard of some kind. I don’t know what to put on it. I’m still experimenting. Personally, I think the most useful thing I could put on it is the endorsement interview posts. But I hardly get any comments on those. So I started experimenting with video, and I get reviews that suggest I’m falling short if it doesn’t look like Scorsese or something.
    The “dream” thing was another experiment. The whole idea came in a flash, and I had no idea how long it would be to actually write it out, or whether it would be worth it in the end.
    You have no idea how many things I write and don’t publish. Part of the idea of the blog was to share that stuff with you, although I don’t even do that. A couple of weeks back, I wrote three different columns — one late Wednesday night, another late Thursday night, and the third at the last second before putting out the Sunday page on Friday. I was going to put the first two — both of which were much longer, and less focused, than the one I used — but I figured I wouldn’t waste your time. I thought I’d keep them in draft form, and use relevant bits and pieces in later posts.
    Meanwhile, I go days without posting, and figure sometimes that I’ll go ahead and toss something onto the table rather than seem to remain silent. The bottom line is, I’m writing all the time.
    Anyway, y’all just keep doing what you’re doing. Give me your feedback, and it will help me in deciding what this medium is about.

  4. Brad Warthen

    I just read back over this. I think the trouble with you people is that you don’t think in ancient terms. Nor do you think in Freudian terms. These themes would seem worthy of examination to either.
    Freud would talk about wish fulfillment, which suggests that my great wish is that someone would emerge and do what I did in my dream, and rescue us all from this situation.
    As I read back through this — something I didn’t do before posting, because I wanted to get it all down as remembered before I forgot completely — I’m struck by how much I was acting out a constant frustration. In the scene in which I was berating everyone for not trying hard enough, I was acting upon something that has driven me nuts ever since I moved back to SC in 1987 — there are lots of good people who want to make our state a better place, but it seems like they never try hard enough. They’ll hold a press conference and announce all their wonderful intentions, but then it’s as though they think all they have to do is stand around a wait for it to happen.
    Meanwhile, the people who want to HARM South Carolina — whether it’s to blanket us with video poker machines, or turn the government into an exploitive syndicate via the lottery, or keep the Confederate flag up, or destroy our public schools — are TIRELESS. They never quit, and they never stop raising money, and they completely overwhelm good intentions. And the namby-pamby “good folk” sit around wondering what happened.
    In the dream, I actually succeeded for once in getting their attention and causing them to follow through. In my experience in this state over the past two decades, that’s as much the stuff of dreams as flying horses. But I keep on hectoring anyway. So maybe I live in a dream, right?
    Then Freud would mutter something about delusions of grandeur, and I’d ask him if he was sure that was a cigar he was holding, and he’d accuse me of having left out the really hot parts of the dream, and I’d tell him to mind his own beeswax.
    In other words, it would be just about as productive as analysis usually is.

  5. Mary Rosh

    The main substantive reason that your post above was a waste of time is that this whole “unparty” idea is just idiotic. Leave aside the fact that you are a partisan Republican whose motivation is grounded in race hatred. Pretend, for the sake of argument, that isn’t true.
    The “unparty” idea is focused on process, when what’s important is substance. The ünparty” idea paints “compromise” as the supreme virtue. You say that people should leave aside partisan disputes and focus on what’s good for South Carolina, and then everything would be fine. By and large, though, the reason that South Carolinians group themselves into different parties is that they have different ideas about what’s good for South Carolina. These are serious issues, and it’s more important for people to fight for what they think is right than to compromise for the sake of compromise.
    Basically, the “unparty” idea is an elevation of your views. Magically, you portray the views you hold as “moderate” and “nonpartisan” and “good for South Carolina”, so lo and behold, when you have finished analyzing what the ideal set of political views should be, it aligns perfectly with the set of views you already hold. To you, the “unparty” idea calls for compromise from everyone except you. Your constant disingenuous deprecation of partisanship is simply a lament that the wisdom of your views is not universally recognized.
    Now, that’s the substantive reason your post was a waste of time. Another important reason is that it was badly written, overlong, and uninteresting. The reason for this is that you suck as a writer. You aren’t a failure as a journalist simply because of your dishonesty, your racism, your laziness, and your stupidity. Those are all important reasons, and tend to prevent you from forming or expressing any useful ideas about public issues. However, another important reason for your failure as a journalist is your utter lack of writing talent. You may discard many of the pieces you write without publishing them, but unless you discard ALL of the pieces you write, you are still wasting space. And by writing ANYTHING, published or not, you are wasting time, because you do not have the ability to write anything worth reading.
    By writing pieces like the piece above (or anything else) you are wasting time that could be more profitably spent cleaning up vomit or blood at the VA hospital, doing your part to help those who have suffered grievous wounds shouldering the burden created by the policies you have advocated.

  6. LexWolf

    Megadittos, Mary, except for the last paragraph and the accusation that Brad is a Republican. No real Republican would ever think the way Brad does – only people who fancy themselves moderates do that.

  7. Herb Brasher

    Brad, I thought this was priceless. Thanks for sticking your neck out and writing it. It’ll take me a day or two to really digest it, but in the meantime it helps to get a bit of a hold on the whole political landscape in SC. I know you must have at least some grasp of the truth, otherwise extremists on both sides wouldn’t be pouring out their venom. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that people who do that are usually projecting their own failures on other people. I guess what I am trying to say is that I respect your courage in encouraging respectful and helpful political thought and discourse.

  8. Doug

    Do you have any evidence of the decline in South Carolina due to the lottery? I see a net zero impact. Those who might abuse it would probably find some other vice.
    Disclosure: I occasionally buy a Powerball ticket and feel the $1 is worth the entertainment value I get from imagining how I would spend the money. Better for me than cigarettes, liquor, or barbecue would be.

  9. Dave

    Brad, you were overflowing with creativity on this one. Maybe this actually happened and you were transported to a time-warped place in America. After my third glass of wine sometimes, I time warp also, so dont feel odd about that.

    With Sanford in control for another four years, he may be presidential timber within the next two, although 2012 is more likely. So dont worry about plague or famine, we all have much to look forward to.

  10. Mary Rosh

    Themistocles was once upbraided by a politician from the small city state of Larissa. “A great deal of your fame, Themistocles,” he remarked, “arises from the fortunate accident of your Athenian birth. Had you been born in Larissa, you would not have become so great.”
    “Nor you,” Themistocles replied, “had you been born in Athens.”

  11. bud

    Brad, Mary’s right about the unparty concept. Basically you’re creating a new party that encompasses your views and values. You would be the only person in the unparty if everyone thought like that.
    This election is one of contrasts. In the state races Dems and the GOP are really not that different ideologically speaking so we can look at the candidates as individuals. That makes the race for Lt. Governor pretty simple. Mr. Bauer is simply not mature enough to be Governor. Mr. Barber is only marginally qualified but I think he can handle the job.
    The governors race is a bit more complex and I’m still sorting out the 2 candidates but I’m leaning toward Mr. Sanford. He actually does seem to be a genuine fiscal conservative (unlike the phoney Bush and company in Washington) and that’s something we need. If he could get a bit of support from the general assembly perhaps we could really eliminate some of the waste in state government.
    Nationally, the GOP has lost it’s way completely. They’re not fiscally responsible. They’re certainly not “family values” oriented. Bush and company are clueless on foreign policy. And on and on. So in the U.S. House races I urge voters to elect Democrats simply as a way of minimizing the damage the hapless Bush can inflict on the nation and world.
    Bottom line: State races – look at the candidate. National races – vote Democrat to minimize the out-of-control Executive Branch.

  12. Dave

    Thermistocles would have told Jesus that being born in a stable in a little hick town like Bethlehem would ensure that he would be a nobody also. So, as you sit in your mythical city-state that you pompously claim is so much better than SC, remember that as Mark Sanford’s fortunes improve.

  13. Mary Rosh

    Yeah, Doug, I wondered about that too. We’ve had a lottery for a long time, a lot longer than South Carolina, and it doesn’t seem to have bothered us. We were a lot better educated, more productive, and more properous than South Carolina when we had a lottery and South Carolina didn’t, and we’re sill a lot better educated, more productive, and more prosperous than South Carolina now that we both have lotteries.
    The whole “unparty” idea of Warthen seem’s to be a sleight of hand to shield him from having to justify his viewpoint. He opposes the lottery because he has a “nonpartisan concern for the welfare of South Carolina,” and he presumes, with no evidence, that the lottery is “bad for South Carolina.” Those who support the lottery do so, according to Warthen, for “partisan” reasons. The thought never enters his head (not that there’s room in there for very many thoughts) that those who support the lottery support it because they think that it’s good for South Carolina.

  14. Dave

    Mary, you said – We were a lot better educated, more productive, and more properous than South Carolina when we had a lottery and South Carolina didn’t, and we’re sill a lot better educated, more productive, and more prosperous than South Carolina now that we both have lotteries.

    I will bet any money your weather and South Carolina’s weather and climate havent changed much either. Stop staring at your navel all day long and say something substantive.


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