Last night, I had a terrible nightmare.
I dreamed that an extremist right-wing religious party had tried to take over the United States government. The candidate they nominated to run for President opposed public funding for just about everything - education, health care, public broadcasting, disaster relief. The people who ran for Senate hoped to make contraception, abortion, and in vitro fertilization illegal. They spoke about rape being the will of God and opined that a woman who conceived a child during a rape must have consented to the act. They opposed equal pay for women in the workplace. They called well-educated people "elitists."
This political party's adherents tried to rationalize their cruel social views with bogus economics. They claimed that poverty existed because people didn't work hard enough. They told people who were dying for lack of health insurance that they should have purchased insurance before they got sick. (If they hadn't, regardless of the reason, it was not the government's responsibility to help them.) They called wealthy people "job creators" and assured the middle class that cutting taxes for wealthy people would create a vast wave of prosperity on which all of society would rise, simultaneously and gloriously.
They alternately used religion to rationalize their policies and to intimidate the electorate. God created women differently from men, they explained, which was why women had to be dealt with differently under the law. Homosexuals were portrayed as sinners and were therefore not entitled to equal treatment under law. Preachers publicly denounced the faithful who refused to vote for the extremist party's candidate. They threatened to shun dissenters, denying them participation in comforting rituals and threatening them with eternal damnation as a consequence of their views.
And, in my dream, the American people bought it. They succumbed to the bizarre, twisted, cruel views. They voted in droves to shrink the federal government beyond recognition. They stopped arguing sensibly and started calling dissenters idiots, retards, godless fools. As the rest of the civilized world looked on helplessly, the extremist party and its views caught hold in a nation that had once prided itself on its inalienable freedom of expression, its thoughtfulness, its educational dominance. People sank into poverty and died from lack of food and medical care, which became luxuries affordable only to the ruling class.
I woke from my nightmare and rolled over. My bedroom window faces due east, and I can see Jupiter glimmering in the night sky until almost dawn. But my grand celestial view did not help. Unable to fall back asleep, I tiptoed downstairs to my kitchen.
When I switched on the light, my nightmare dissipated immediately. The kitchen was filled with the remains of a joyful party. Long-stemmed champagne flutes, rimmed with lipstick and holding traces of Veuve Cliquot champagne, lined the counter. Dessert plates and forks were stacked in the sink. Candy wrappers, cast about by celebrating children, littered the floor.
The scene reminded me that the threat of takeover by conservative extremists had been a fleeting nightmare. I remembered that life was still good. I could still practice law, even though I'm a woman. I could still discuss my health care with my doctor behind closed doors. I would still be welcome in my church next Sunday, regardless of how I had voted or spoken out in dissent. Maybe I'd lost a few friends who had subscribed to the rhetoric, but life would go on.
And it would be good.