Two views • Oregon has a new state motto Ñ 'Oregon. We Love Dreamers' Ñ and a high profile ad campaign to go with it; will out-of-staters feel the love?
No, no, no! Get the Wite-Out! Cue the erasers! Pull it, snuff it, cancel it before it's engraved on any bus bench, Segway or billboard!
This is our new state slogan? This is what the geniuses at Wieden & Kennedy brought forth after hours of caffeine-juiced rumination? This low-carb pabulum, this 'slogan lite'? This is the statement we want to make about ourselves?
'We Love Dreamers'? Why not 'We Love Beemers'? Did the Lexus lobbyists stage a pre-emptive sit-in on their leather seats? Or why not 'We Love Schemers'? Or 'We Love Redeemers'?
'Things Look Different Here' had a lot more going for it than this dream-speak bumper-sticker drivel, which barely improves upon 'She Flies With Her Own Wings,' that oblique tripe that served as state motto for more than a hundred years and was recycled 16 years ago.
I understand that half a million bucks is gushing into promotion of the new slogan. But I can't make sense of a single syllable. Look at the thing piece by piece:
• First, the word 'dreamers.' What exactly is a dreamer? Don Quixote was the prototype, but his dream, more than 'impossible,' was laughable. His agendum (as in agendumb) was to vanquish windmills and canonize a prostitute. Oregon's windmills do reduce our dependence on electricity, but I don't think the bigwigs at PGE are losing sleep about that, and the anticipated huge wind surge (remember when Vestas Wind Systems was going to inject $150 million into Oregon's economy?) went from gust to bust. We still have wind turbines and a 'windustry,' but job seekers queuing up for slots at the virtual Vestas turned out to be É um É dreamers.
Martin Luther King Jr. was another famous dreamer, and his vision was worthy beyond words. But its realization remains tragically elusive. Shakespeare conjured a dream in the middle of summer, and perchance it was a verdant one, but the prevailing summertime dream in Oregon is for enough rain to douse forest fires. Basketball fans once had a Dream Team; but basketball in Oregon, at least at the professional level, seems synonymous with 'nightmare.'
So which 'dreamers' are we citing? Dreamers who wake up or dreamers who slumber indefinitely, through recession and legislative logjams and voters' pamphlets as thick as the OED? I don't think 'dreamers' sends a remotely positive image. It seems to me that if we wanted to slap a statewide label on our citizens' passion, 'We love equality' or 'We love prosperity' or even 'We love cedars' would be more defining and uplifting. Dreamers? Might as well brag, 'We love people who use rent money to buy Megabucks tickets.'
· OK, next in our deconstruction: the pronoun. We love dreamers. Who is 'we'? We the mattress merchants? We the underemployed? We the arts patrons, car thieves, farmers or baristas? The slogan doesn't say what 'Oregon' loves, so maybe the 'We' refers to the muckymucks at Wieden & Kennedy, or to Kulongoski and his 'dream team' of PR flackers. If this is a recruitment campaign, couldn't we instead love 'rich investors' and court well-heeled transplants who'd jet in to save our schools? No, we'd rather serenade dreamers. No-Doz, anyone?
· And the final piece in our analysis: the verb. We love dreamers. We love them. We don't necessarily employ them, clothe them, feed or house them, but we do fluff their pillows and kiss them nighty-night because we love them!
We don't mention them in job postings or hand them crisp 20s as they finger their cardboard signs at the Burnside on-ramp, but we do love them. We love them as long as they stay on their own side of the bed and don't snore.
A pretty dream can be a tonic, and I'm a big fan of placebos. But it seems to me that greater assets for any state are strength, resilience, generosity and foresight. OK, creativity and pluck can go in the toolbox, too.
But if we keep buying into this 'branding' concept and the sound-bite imperative, the only message we're sending is (zzzzzz), 'We love slogans.'