I recently dreamed about President George W. Bush. I have never dreamed about a president before.
I was in an especially good mood because I was in what I call Shakespeare Country - Ashland, Ore. - where I had seen eight plays and would gladly see five of them again, had eaten all kinds of food but fast, shopped to what my purse could bear, and enjoyed the company of three friends.
But the dream had taken place: I called the president, and he answered the phone.
I spoke and told him I had not expected the call to go directly to him. He said he had nothing else to do.
I exploded, "You have much to do! You have to stop the war in Iraq! Bring the troops home."
"I can't do that," he said. "I am protecting the world for democracy."
I knew saying what I had to say would have been a waste of time. So I said, "I want you to know I agree with President Jimmy Carter: you are the worst American president ever."
"I'm sorry you feel that way," he answered. "You are entitled to your opinion. I am doing what I believe is the right thing."
I awakened startled. Most vividly, I could hear him saying, "I believe I am doing the right thing." I have on occasion believed what I was doing was the right thing, and another, or others, believed what I was doing was wrong, but never has anyone been killed as a result of our clash of beliefs. Maybe all communication ceased, or it took a different tenor; maybe we came to see each other's viewpoint and compromised; maybe both of us were proved correct, but at different times. I took my dream to mean that perhaps I should put my views about the war on paper. Heretofore, I have settled for poems and conversations. So here goes.
What Mr. Bush believes is right has cost thousands and thousands of lives to change and end. The repercussions of what he believes are borne by so many. (His 29 percent approval in the recent polls does not stop him nor prevent his orders from being carried out.)
And there is no end in sight. If every troop came home today, the situation for many would be better, but a great many folks would continue to suffer. I think all of us know the country's reputation is suffering, that our actions prevent us from having moral ground to condemn other nations.
I am among the millions who begged that we not attack Iraq as soon as I heard we would. That Saturday before the war began when millions of peoples around the world protested and said, "No Iraq war!" may be my proudest moment of being a human being. And no, I have not been in a war.
But I have read about many, history and fiction; I've seen some of the best-ever movies about war, be they documentaries, inspired-by-real-events, or fiction. I know all kinds of statistics about the dead, the wounded, and the costs of war. I have visited Arlington National Cemetery. I've seen the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. as well as other walls and other monuments of remembrance dedicated to soldiers around this country.
I've been to some Civil War battlefields. I've been to Pearl Harbor. I visited tombs of unknown soldiers in foreign countries when I literally traveled around the world in 1985. With no thoughts of war I often followed a tour guide who led us to a cemetery for veterans.
Civilian victims don't always get counted. I've been to Dachau. I went to Hiroshima and then decided that I did not want to go to Nagasaki. I've stood in buildings that survived bomb blasts and still bear the damage. I know men who fought in Viet Nam and have nightmares that continue to torment them.
I have said all of this to say that war, especially war in this century, is good for absolutely nothing, that I am against war. I don't need to be a soldier or be embedded in the military as an observer. Choose any war from the past you can think of, and eventually it ended. There was a treaty. In many cases the "enemies" now freely trade with each other and walk around each other's country. Why can't we talk now? Why is the carnage necessary?
I think I dreamed of Bush because so often my thoughts go to the war. When I am having an especially good time, I often wonder why so many others do not have such good times, may never have had them and may never have them.
I see magazines at the store. I hear stories on the radio. News is not news without a reference to the war. I know no one who has died, and yet I mourn for their families and for them, the victims who willingly went, thought it was their duty to go - the ones who never dreamed when they enlisted they would one day be in such a place. I mourn for the ones who knew what they were getting into and the ones who had no idea what they were getting into. I mourn for the ones who believed "it's sweet and becoming to die for one's country."
I long for the day when the greatest weapon of mass destruction - ignorance - will be eliminated, the day when we will take and make the time to learn about each other's culture, religion, and whatever else it is that separates us at the time.
I long for the day when humans, especially those who can give orders for war, will come to realize that we have far more in common with each other than not, that hurting and killing only temporarily deters the person hurt and permanently the one killed.
I would like to have calm, peaceful dreams about family and friends, not presidents.
South End writer Georgia S. McDade may be reached at this link.