The Improbable DREAM Act
Would you rather have a dream or a nightmare? What sounds more inviting? Most of us would probably choose a pleasant dream over a disturbing nightmare.
Now, what new law would you like to see passed by your legislature: The DREAM Act or The NIGHTMARE Act? Yes, it's a trick question. These names alone don't tell you anything about the two bills. At this point, you don't even know what the letters stand for. But even without knowing what's in the bills, a dream still sounds much better than a nightmare, doesn't it? And therein lies the magic.
Acronyms are handy and effective shortcuts for all sorts of things. Everybody knows what a laser is, but did you know that it's an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation?
An acronym takes on a life of its own, eclipsing the words from which it was derived. The acronym becomes the identity of the entity it represents. Nobody says "Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries;" they say "OPEC." Nobody says "Radio Detecting and Ranging;" they say "RADAR."
Most acronyms are newly minted "words" derived from a title or slogan (OSHA, NIMBY). Some are real words that may (or may not) capture the essence of the entity (SWAT, COLA). If you want your acronym to be a particular word, then you have to begin with that word and work backwards. You have to find the right words and put them in the right order to create your acronym.
Which brings me back to The DREAM Act. Did you know that The DREAM Act is really the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act?
There must be a windowless room in the Capitol where congressional aides, surrounded by dictionaries, toil tirelessly night and day, dreaming up words that comply with preconceived outcomes such as "The DREAM Act." The bill's sponsor stops by and says, "Here's what I want to call this bill. Make it work!"
The elves get right down to work. DREAM. D-R-E-A-M. Let's see. First, the "D." Demonic? Defrost? Degenerate? Dementia? No, no, no, no. How about DEVELOPMENT? Yes, that's it! Now the "R." Refrigerator? Romance? Ridiculous? Radioactive? No, no, no, no. How about RELIEF? Bingo! Now we have "Development" and "Relief." Only three to go.
I'm sure they wanted to call it "The AMERICAN DREAM Act," but that would have taken too many elves. Even so, they must have reluctantly settled for the dreaded word "Alien" through clenched teeth.
What if The DREAM Act had been the Deny Retirement to Elderly American Mothers Act? Not so dreamy now?
Disguising an act of Congress with a whiff of propaganda needs to be off limits. It's OK to abbreviate the name of a bill, but it's not OK to dare someone to vote against a dream.