One of the few things in American life that most of us have in common, regardless of whether one is a baby boomer or Generation Z or something in between, is a connection to The Wizard of Oz. Time hasn’t diminished the magic that occurs when Dorothy opens the door in a sepia-toned Kansas farmhouse and walks into the Technicolor Land of Oz.
There’s diversity on display in this new world, what with the Munchkins, witches, and the trio of the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion. No people of color, mind you, with the notable exception of the Wicked Witch of the West, but that wasn’t unusual in a Hollywood movie of 1939.
Our modern sensibility would rightly protest the villain of the piece being that only exception, and having that person played by Margaret Hamilton, who wasn’t actually a witch. Considering how many honest to goodness witches were working as actresses in Hollywood at that time, the casting of one of them would have been far more appropriate and would have prevented the need for Miss Hamilton to perform in “greenface.”
The search for home, heart, brains, and courage by Dorothy and her compadres is the core of the movie, but this allegorical fantasy isn’t really about a bunch of disparate journeys. It’s really a single odyssey to collect the necessary pieces (heart, brains, and courage) to reach the goal (home).
For example, it’s really hard to imagine a demonstration of true courage by anyone who doesn’t have the heart to go with it—not to mention the brains. Heart alone will provide little without the sense and conviction that brains and courage provide. Brains without those two other vital components most likely will lead to sitting on the sidelines with an understanding of what is going on with no ability or even inclination to influence the outcome.
Recently we’ve had multiple examples of actions taken by folks who may have combined those three noted elements to create a major chord.
Denying a quorum to the Texas House by going to Washington, D. C., the runaway Texas legislators continue to delay Republican efforts to pass even more restrictive voting laws in the state. Democrats (at least the elected official types) are not necessarily known for taking on fights judged to be unwinnable, so this looks like something courageous. The fact that these are Texas Democrats and perhaps disproportionately Texas women, makes the observation of this political move more satisfying.
It’s theater, to be sure, but there’s certainly method—and brains—behind it. Stalling is a long established political weapon (see Mitch McConnell), not to mention the optics of Governor Abbott sputtering angrily and ineffectively while he should be gearing up for what may prove to be a contentious Republican primary next year. This story isn’t over, but it certainly is worth watching.
The Olympics proved interesting to me this week, not for men’s diving, but for women’s gymnastics. Simone Biles withdrew from some of the competition, and I frankly don’t understand everything that happened. Nor could I, since the state typing competition of 1974 was the last time I participated in something like that.
But even I understand that competing on that highest level requires that one’s heart and head be in it, and only Ms. Biles could know if those prerequisites had been met. She judged that they hadn’t been, and she faced the backlash of disappointment and disapproval when she withdrew. That’s courage, and this seems an appropriate time to remind ourselves that a woman always has the right to say no—on the gym floor, at the office, or in the bedroom.
In politics, what looks like courage on the surface may be a brain-driven strategy. What looks like a heartfelt defense of democracy may be the heartless pursuit of cynical political ambition. Of course, I’m talking about Liz Cheney.
Crediting her with courage for defying what passes as the Republican party and its leadership these days may be premature. Her demand as a member of the House Select Committee investigating January 6 for a full accounting of “every minute of that day” inside the Trump White House may, or may not, originate from her love of “the miracle of America.” However, it is clear that Nancy Pelosi currently regards her as an ally in the true meaning of that word.
To quote Charles Dudley Warner, “politics makes strange bedfellows.” Well, I don’t know if Nancy and Liz are wishing each other a good night, but they certainly seem to be going hand in hand down a contemporary yellow brick road.