The evening before the election, I heard Donald Trump say, “I will make all your dreams come true.”
I have a lot of dreams. Since the days of studying both Carl Jung and Gestalt Therapy, I have taken my own dreams and other people’s dreams seriously. These may not be the dreams Donald Trump had in mind, but sleeping dreams reveal much about us and the world we live in.
In the days before the election of George W. Bush, I dreamed repeatedly about going to war with Iraq again. A year before 9/11 and two years before the Second Iraq War, there had been enough talk about Saddam Hussein as a devil that the dreams were understandable. My dreams were chaotic and yet clear in their aversion to the prospect of war in Iraq. As Iraq fell into chaos after our “victory” had been declared, the news became a daily experience of déjà vu.
Before the election of Donald Trump, I had a series of automaton dreams, with people crawling out of a trunk that an orange-headed man had opened. The automatons were zombie-like and yet their faces were full of expression. Their smiles were broad and fixed and their eyes were bright, as they screamed and yelled obscenities and attacked other people, including my friends and family and me, because we were not like them. We did not “belong” to this order of Pandora. Sometimes they attacked people of color and foreigners, sometimes same sex friends and couples (“We’re just friends; we’re not married,” I heard them say, defending themselves.), sometimes crippled and helpless people who just melted under the assaults, as the attackers called them “freaks” and “losers.” They even attacked scrawny children, clothed in rags, who fell under their trampling feet. Once I had my hands around the neck of one of the attackers, and I squeezed her throat, until I stopped myself, and said, “I can’t do this. (I’m becoming like them.).” When I awoke, I’m glad to report, Jan was sleeping soundly at my side, undisturbed and unthreatened. The dream reoccurred with small changes, and I supposed they resulted from the frequent media footage of Donald Trump rallies.
I studied at Chicago Theological Seminary with Franklin Littell, historian of the rise of fascism in Europe, and Andre Lacocque, a biblical scholar who experienced the years of the Third Reich, and whose teaching of Daniel and Job were framed by those experiences. My dreams are often affected by memories of what I’ve learned and by the echoes of those years in the words and actions of extremist leaders and groups of all kinds. It doesn’t take much to reawaken the dreams-turned-nightmares—a straight-armed salute, a swastika or similar angular symbol, the waving of certain flags, especially the Confederate flag. Even our own Pledge of Allegiance, recited with too many flags, too many uniforms, too many people, gives me the creeps.
Mass deportations of millions , indiscriminate stop and frisk, silencing and demonizing dissent, shredding the social safety net for the underclass and the already impoverished and the desperately ill, expanded militarization of the police and search and seizure in our neighborhoods, climate and war refugees crowded into mass camps and prisons across the earth—all of these are nightmarish prospects that have been spoken aloud and celebrated. I pray these dreams are not the ones Donald Trump had in mind when he promised to make all our dreams come true.