The Impossible Dream
by William Plitt
A month ago, at end of weeks of a seemingly endless winter, I gambled and
bought three tickets to “Man of La Mancha”, a presentation by the Washington Shakespeare Company at the Sidney Harmon Theatre in the City. I was needing some “lift”, both in attitude and altitude, and hoped to that “lift” in light-hearted theatrical/musical entertainment- a distraction from our work too!
I had read the classical Cervantes novel in Spanish class as a high school student — though literally not philosophically; anyway, I did know the story. I had also heard of the play when it was inaugurated in 1965, though I didn’t actually see it until 1966 at a small community theatre production in Washington, D.C. I found that performance inspiring even then when I was working as a teacher intern at Cardozo H.S. I was needing some levity at that time also; it was the mid-sixties, after all.
The story is one of hope and idealism and moves through the darkness and
despair of a prison cell buoyed by familiar and moving songs we’ve all heard
before. The Post reviewer said, “The lead character, Miguel de Cervantes presents his story through an errant knight (Don Quixote) as a play within a play. It dares everyone to ‘Dream the Impossible Dream’.” In the 60’s, amidst the events of the Vietnam War, Kennedy Assassination, and movements for civil rights, and an end of war, it was seen as a bit “schmaltzy” and unrealistic. I was inspired then; but then again, I was also inspired by “The Sound of Music”.
The play, now presented in the current climate, is not unlike the period of the ’60’s with the same issues of war, civil rights, and accompanying protests, though perhaps somewhat darker with a certain universality of violence projected every day on screen, on paper and on the radio. The performance caught me off guard. I was expecting “schmaltzy”; I got hope and reassurance.
At a time in my life, particularly during the winter season, and, metaphorically,
during the twilight of age, I am seeking other options to end violence than through military actions, to bring about equality and justice without violent tactics, and to share our own limited personal resources rather than contributing to the widening gap between very rich from the very poor. In watching the play, I began to wonder what is wrong with idealism, and right with realism? What is real? Is one person’s reality another’s dream? What’s wrong with trying diplomacy and sanctions to end the spiral of weaponry, non-violent resistance to end acts of injustice and inhumanity, and dreaming the “The Impossible Dream”?
A few years ago, I remember reading something by the UN Human Rights
rapporteur for Palestinians, Richard Faulk, who said the issue before the world
with regard to the Palestinian struggle was a human rights issue, and like all
such social justice movements of previous years, it will not be resolved by
governments, but by people at the grassroots level. He called such acts as
thinking about “unanticipated possibilities”. “Who saw,” he said, “the end of
Apartheid in South Africa, the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, and the
agreements in Northern Ireland?” They were seen as “impossible dreams” by
some; others, like Mandela, Kennedy, and George Mitchell, saw it instead as pragmatism.
I struggle with our work with Tent of Nations through our nonprofit, now in its eighth year. Is it unrealistic and impossible to think about another way than violence to end aggression? While clearly this small project located on a 100-acre farm southwest of Bethlehem is not going to end the occupation of the Palestinian people and free the captors. Can it serve as a model, however, to replace the military confrontations on the “other side” and in use by many of the world powers? How can we support internationals who gather on the land to understand the struggle, and return home after “coming and seeing” to think about “the impossible dream”? Is it delusional to think Quixotically about striving towards an end to the loss of human dignity and rights? If it is a reality that the Israeli authorities will eventually take all of the land, including the farm in Area C as is their “right” under the Oslo Accords, why continue on? Are we following a path of folly, or in the pursuit of “another way” such as the one demonstrated by Jesus in the days of another occupation? Are we being honest with those who place their faith and their money in what we have espoused all these years?
By the end of the play, Aldonza, the village whore, becomes Dulcinaya, the
Queen of Beauty because of Quixote’s vision. People can change is the
message. So, do we continue to press on with our message, knowing the
possibility that the farm in its present form will disappear? Will the project live on in some form? It has already changed the lives of many people across the world, including our own. Can it continue to do so?
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For those interested in knowing more about Bill Plitt’s work and interests, two websites might be of interest:
Friends of Tent of Nations North America (FOTONNA)
Bill can be reached at — firstname.lastname@example.org