With my computer down for a couple of days, I had plenty of time to think about Mitt Romney's businessman's approach in calling for the "American Dream". It's the safe term that so often rises to a candidate's lips when chauvinistic wholesomeness is necessary in the heat of a campaign. In lands I've visited overseas, I can't say I've ever heard anybody else attach their country to a dream. The Italian Dream? The German Dream? The Irish Dream? Well, if you press them on the topic, the Irish do dream of Guinness flowing from their home faucets someday. In Italy, they will tell you about anchovies. And a German's happiest moment is a well prepared schnitzel.
As I sat through larger-than-life moments of the convention, the American Dream became something we could all realize if we put our mind to it - or had a rich father. After all, it was a spectacle of sworn honest discourse, soaring promises and, of course, an empty chair. Based on Clint Eastwood's creaky comments, including a raunchy reference to President Obama, shouldn't someone have rushed onstage to offer him a rocking chair instead? (Mitt, the "we built it guy", is said to have tumbled with laughter. Didn't anybody first check to see whether the chair was built in China?)
Back to the American Dream. The profile of the delegates was that they were white, male, and older.
I fully qualify. So my dreaming took me back to my teenage days, when I wanted to be a professional baseball player. Then, a pianist for a small jazz group. Then, as a journalism student, a successor to Edward R. Murrow. Then a best-selling author. Finally, my own villa in Umbria. Mitt: I regretfully have to tell you: Except maybe for the villa, I tried. I really did. And none of the dreams came true.
Maybe I should have aspired to being a politician like you, standing before a big friendly audience, confidently into yourself with that Mona Lisa smile, and insisting that the American Dream does include everybody if you work at it - and have a very rich father.
My father's only dream for me was that I hang out in a small garage in a coal-miners town and run his business. Since I was foolish enough to prefer reading Hemingway and Faulkner and engaging in other dead-end personal diversions instead of poring over General Motors parts catalogs, I had to move on. Folks, I'm not complaining about a lost family business opportunity, but a low-paying newspaper job in another state was the least painful way to get around my father's dream.
By the way, now that you mention it so often, Mitt: What is the American Dream?