I have a dream. I dream that someday the United States will be on the side of the peasants in some civil war. I dream that we will be the ones who will help the poor overthrow the rich, who will talk about land reform and education and health facilities for everyone, and that when the Red Cross or Amnesty International comes to count the bodies and take the testimony of women raped, that our side won't be the heavies.

It would be nice for once if our side did not wear gaudy military uniforms and hide their eyes behind dark glasses. I would love it if our guys wore the suspenders and the wide hats and slept at night in the countryside instead of behind the guarded walls of some villa with a wife and a mistress and a Mercedes Benz.

I suppose that what I am saying is that I would like us once to be on the side of history. It would have been nice to have won in Vietnam and China before that. It would have been terrific to have been the Shah's enemy and the friend of the people of Iran. It would have been just great to have not been the buddy of the Somoza family in Nicaragua and the pal of every dictator who sends his money to Switzerland and his children to American military schools. Maybe then things would have turned out differently. Maybe then we would not be looking into the face of anti-American zealots like Khomeini.

It would have been wonderful if we were the country the Sandinstas turned to when they started their revolution in Nicaragua. Why not? We believe in democracy and in equality and in freedom. This is the country that was formed in a revolution and that to this day is so unremittingly democratic that, at the Republican National Convention, the 55-mile-per-hour speed limit was denounced as government oppression.

Even now you have to wonder why we have this argument with Nicaragua. Why do we have to bolt in panic from any country that calls itself Marxist or socialist? So what if it is. China is communist and it is our new buddy. Its chief enemies are other communist countries: the Soviet Union and Vietnam. The Vietnamese, in turn, fight the Cambodians and the Cambodians fight each other. Communist cohesiveness exists only in American myth.

No matter. We are sort of at war with Nicaragua. The president has authorized $19 million so the CIA can "destabilize" the Sandanista regime. When the Libyans allegedly sent 10 or 12 terrorists here to "destabilize" our government, we predictably went nuts. Nations can not do these sorts of things to other nations. So why then are we doing it to the Nicaraguans? OO nce again, we are the heavies.

Once again, we play the role of the bully. We are, after all, past masters at destabilization. We have destabilized Nicaragua before with the Marines and we destabilized Guatemala with the CIA and we tried to destabilize Fidel Castro at the Bay of Pigs, but he just would not destabilize. Now Castro is our implacable enemy.

Only a dreamy romantic could overlook the realities of big power politics. You sometimes have to make unholy alliances--deal with the sort of people you would not have to dinner. History can ensnarl you. We are paying now in Latin America for the sins of the United Fruit Co., for a patronizing view of Central and South Americans that showed itself in a thousand movies starring women who wore bananas on their heads.

And only an idiot could overlook that rhetoric is only words. The North Vietnamese had terrific slogans, but they were silent about boat people. Sometimes oppressive right wing regimes are replaced by more oppressive left wing ones -- sometimes atrocious ones like the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

But that's no reason to settle always for the status quo, to attach ourselves like barnacles to whoever is in power and to compel the forces of change to look elsewhere for support. It is a perversion of history that a totalitarian regime like the Soviet Union gets to use the rhetoric of social progress and we get stuck on the side of privilege and reaction. It would be nice to proclaim our ideals, to have the poor and underprivileged of the world look to us--shout our slogans and consider us their friend.

There are difficulties with this, I know. Practical considerations, I know. Don't worry.

It's just a dream.