Spare us from leaders without dreams. For that matter, spare us from leaders with dreams of personal glory, which turn out to be nightmares for everybody else. Those dreams usually entail a whole bunch of us getting maimed and killed, and then erecting statues of the jackass who got us into that whole mess in the first place, so for as long as that statue stands we’re reminded that we were once the patsies of a murdering megalomaniac. How many more times are we going to get fooled by that dream again? No, we want real, honest to goodness dreamers leading this pack of ours, someone who dreams that things can be better. People like Washington, Lincoln and Kennedy, or even religious mystics like Christ, Gandhi or King. These were all people who told us we could do better, and challenged us to claim our full measure of humanity by living up to all that is good and decent within us.

Dreamers change the world as much as scientists and inventors. Christopher Columbus was a dreamer of the first magnitude, even though his dream of sailing west from Spain to India ran into a giant roadblock called North and South America, or The New World, as Europeans called it. His daring act of venturing into the vast unknown encouraged millions more to dream of what else might be, and the energy and unbridled industry of dreamers began transforming the world. Let’s take a look at some of the good dreams people have shared with us over the millennia, and a peek at how some dreams were derailed by the nightmare brigade portion of humanity. Let’s start with this guy:

The Dreamer – Jesus Christ: This ex-carpenter turned preacher had the best of dreams to offer humanity, a profound but simple message of love, tolerance, humility, peace and good will. He spread his message in a remote backwater of the Roman Empire for three years before being killed for his troubles. His followers spread the word.

The Nightmare – What became of Christianity: The followers of Christ proclaimed him Savior and formed a powerful organization called simply “The Church,” and then proceeded to completely ignore his message by gaining political power and demanding unquestioning obedience to their misreading of Christ’s words, treating Christians like so many dogs to be brought to heel, and those who followed other faiths as vermin to be exterminated. So successful were they in their Inquisitions and wars, the Church became the working model for Islam when it was their turn to “Spread The Word,” which they did at the point of a sword and came up with a bunch of new harsh rules and torture techniques in the service of a (?!?) loving God.

The Dreamers – Mohandes K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King: Called The Mahatma, Mohandes Gandhi was an Indian Hindu scholar and preacher who taught nonviolence, tolerance, love and understanding as the way to achieve human freedom from oppression. He inspired another religious man, the American Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. who like Gandhi, achieved a degree of freedom for his people though determined nonviolence, and also like his philosophical  mentor, earned a bullet in the head for his visions.

The Nightmares: India and Pakistan today, once a single entity but now two overpopulated, nuclear-armed countries evenly divided between rich and abjectly poor at each other’s throats since Gandhi’s death, and both  torn from within by inequality and religious violence. For Dr. King, the nightmare was not only his death, but another generation of racial strife in an America long tortured by this issue.

The Dreamer – John Lennon: This fabulously successful musician and songwriter shared his dream of peace and love in the form of some unforgettable music backed up with outspoken activism, risking controversy and personal derision to consistently champion the better angels of humanity.

The Nightmare: Another dreamer cut down in his prime by a man with a gun in his hand and no love in his heart.

The Dreamers – Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy: Two American presidents a hundred years apart who sought a more perfect union of these United States, one untainted by racial inequality and oppression. The second dreamer also had another dream, to put a man on the moon, a dream made true by others.

The Nightmare: Two more visionaries who didn’t live to see the fruits of their dreams, cut down by a couple of other guys with guns and nothing but hatred in their hearts

The Dreamer – Bob Marley: An obscure musician from an obscure former British Colony, the island nation of Jamaica in the Caribbean, this illegitimate son of a British Army Officer and a Jamaican mother became a true giant of music and peace. His deceptively simple songs of freedom, love and redemption are masterpieces of song writing craft, and his honesty, insight  and contagious joy made him a beloved world figure long after he was taken from us, and earned Reggae Music a valued position in popular music.

The Nightmare: Other than surviving an assassination attempt and dying much too young of cancer, there has been no nightmare associated with Mr. Marley, and his songs, his goodness and universal message of equality, respect and love still ring true and clear.

The Dreamer – Lydnon Baines Johnson: The president who took over for the slain John Kennedy, he implemented the Civil Rights initiatives introduced by his predecessor, then went on to wage his War on Poverty and introduce The Great Society, social legislation that eliminated starvation in The United States overnight and began the process of enfranchising the disenfranchised.

The Nightmare: President Johnson became more and more obsessed with fighting the unwinnable and unjust Vietnam War, the most divisive conflict in American history and an issue that began tearing America apart at the seams from within, a trend that continues to this day. So dispirited was Johnson that he abandoned the presidency and any hopes of building on his Great Society dreams of financial equality for Americans of every background, a failure that has come home to roost in today’s America of haves and have-nots. Lyndon Johnson could have become one of our greatest dreamers and leaders, but the mindless pursuit of futile global warfare derailed a great and worthy dream.

The Dreamer – Barack Obama: The son of a Kenyan shepherd and a white American mother who raised him alone, Barack Obama has had a meteoric rise to become one of America’s youngest presidents and our first black president, collecting on the dividends of the dreams of Lincoln, Kennedy, King and Johnson. President Obama came to Washington with the dream of correcting the Us-Versus-Them political landscape that has been dividing America since the Vietnam War by reaching out to those whose political views differ from his own. He also dreamt of expanding the rights of American citizens to include the right to medical care, and to end the futile wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that threaten to derail American domestic issues and international prestige.

The Nightmare: Too soon to tell how all this will turn out after only 10 months in office, but so far the opposition has been industriously biting Obama’s outstretched hand of cooperation and unity. The two wars are still being waged and Obama has been sidetracked dealing with a Corporate Shadow Government that wants to continue to run the America solely for the benefit of wealthy individuals and corporations. This battle between who controls the American government, our lawfully elected officials or a self-appointed wealthy elite, is likely to define his presidency for the immediate future. If he doesn’t win that battle and regain control of the government for the American people, he will be able to implement few, if any, of his dreams, and the nation will be the poorer for it. Let’s root for the dreamers, that brand of human determined to leave this world a better place than the way they  found it. We desperately need to dream and we need our dreamers.

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