They are the stuff of nightmares. Literally.
Crawford’s interest in people’s dreams involving Trump was piqued shortly before the 2016 election, when she had a bizarre nightmare about the then-GOP nominee, she told HuffPost this week.
Here it is, in full, as related by Crawford via email:
A friend, who has worked with various celebrities as a personal assistant and a dresser called. He was leaving town, and needed me to cover for him. “It’s easy!” he said, “you just have to stop by and feed him ― I’ve left everything out with a note!” He gave me an address that leads to the top floor of a six floor walk up apartment building.
When I arrived, I unlocked the door, unsure of who or what I would be feeding. The door opened into a family/television room ― the curtains drawn, a large TV blaring on the wall. On the glass coffee table sat a large metal dog bowl. A bag of kibble sat near the door. And on the sofa, Donald Trump, in a large adult diaper, sat sleeping with his chin on his chest. I filled the bowl with nuggets and slid it toward him on the table.
As I looked at him sleeping, I was filled with disgust, and then flooded with pity. He is obviously sick. Disabled. Infantile and senile. Feeble. Something was profoundly wrong with him. He then woke and without acknowledging me in any way, began gobbling the food, chewing loudly with his mouth open. I decide that it would be too cruel to let him just starve to death, but at least he was contained ― as he could never be able to walk up or down all those stairs.
I did the bare minimum for him, only what I would offer to any suffering stranger, any human being. I got him a cheap pre-paid flip phone for emergencies only. All his previous handlers abandoned him. He seemed debilitated. Yet somehow despite his incompetence he was still able to head an angry, divisive, xenophobic campaign.
Crawford told HuffPost the dream made her think “about how difficult it is to discern ‘sick’ from ‘bad’ ― that the course of normal empathy seems to lean towards offering deviant behavior the benefit of a doubt, assuming that it emerges out of illness and suffering ― eliciting pity and making excuses for ‘bad’ and immoral behavior.”
“The dream pressed me to confront my own complicity, my desire to consciously view Trumpism and the resurgence of right-wing extremism as something aging, feeble, and powerless ― nothing to take seriously,” she added.
Crawford soon noticed she wasn’t alone in dreaming about Trump. Friends and clients mentioned similar experiences. So in December 2017, she launched a “45Dreams” blog and Twitter account “to start collecting dreams of Trump and Trumpism.”
She took inspiration from the late journalist Charlotte Beradt, who collected the dreams of people in Nazi Germany in a project titled “The Third Reich of Dreams: Nightmares of a Nation 1933-1939.”
“I was so struck by some of the similarities and divergences between [Beradt’s] dreams and the ones I had been hearing,” said Crawford, who over the course of the next six months collected more than 3,000 dreams from friends and clients and via her blog.
She also searched Twitter for terms including “dreamed Trump” and “had a dream Trump” and vetted the results to ensure the dreams had, to the best of her ability to tell, actually been dreamed. Here are some examples:
And she received this one, which she said “seems to speak” of “a kind of de facto U.S. Civil War where the U.S. population turns on itself”:
The US had turned into the days of the red scare. Except all our social justice warriors and civil rights activists were being imprisoned and killed. Everyone was turning on each other, and in my case, even my own family members were killing my most beloved social servants. I had the sense this was all because of Trump’s administration.
Then came the process of sorting the dreams into categories, which Crawford ― who hopes to turn her research into a book ― described as “actually very hard work.”
“It was incredibly sleepy-making and sometimes almost dizzying to spend hours sorting through strange dream imagery and try to keep my rational capacities thinking about them clearly,” she said. “I learned that I could only do a few hours at a time and then I had to shake it off and think of other things.”
Common themes centered on “incompetence,” “violated taboos,” “propaganda and surveillance,” “women’s issues,” “debasement,” “apocalypse,” “authoritarianism,” “persecution,” “white nationalism” and the 2020 election.
Many dreams appeared to “point to collective themes” that “reflect our national concerns that refer to myths, fairytales, or political or historical outcomes that may affect the individual dreamer ― along with the community around them,” she noted.
Crawford was unable, she said, to “formally interpret” many of the dreams because she did not know the dreamers “or their particular associations to the symbols.”
But “dreams of assisting, nurturing or admiring Trump which the dreamer finds very disturbing upon waking” were likely about “fantasizing about avoiding conflict and feelings of impotence” and “surrendering to the pressure, ‘If you can’t beat them, join them’ and escaping the tensions of living through a very troubling era.”
“I think, like my own, these dreams may also serve as cautionary dreams,” she added.