“The Wizard of Oz” is one of my all-time favorite movies. What terror as Dorothy is swept away from a farm in Kansas in a tornado and what a surprise when she lands in a magical place and is greeted by new friends. How delightful and challenging as they all embark on a quest to meet with a wizard who can help them by the force of his mystical powers.
Recently, a lot of us got swept up and thought there was a real-life wizard who also had amazing powers. Like Dorothy, we came from simple backgrounds where the farm was grey and lacking in new paint. This wizard said he was the “only one” who could help us, so we bought in.
His palace was dazzling and filled with beauty. His image was projected larger than life and when he spoke, we were filled with awe. He told us we could have what we wanted if we believed in him and fulfilled a difficult task. If we just kept toiling, he’d be the one to give us what we wanted.
So, we toiled. But then, after much due effort, we happen upon a curtain with a little man sitting at a control board of levers that creates the smoke and the sound and the towering image of the wizard inside the palace. The magical wizard wasn’t real. But all the while, as we believed and as we toiled, the man sitting at the controls has used the sound and the smoke to benefit himself. We trusted that his word, his promises to us for a better life back in Kansas were all true, but we find instead that his documented lies have now accumulated to more than 12,000 but we’re told that’s not the show we’re supposed to be looking at now.
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain? Why in hell not? To name just one thing, the wizard’s golf trips to his own private clubs are now on our tax bill. We never dreamed we were signing up to pay $102 million total — to date, and counting — for one guy’s historic golf habit. Even if he did volunteer not to take a presidential salary, $102 million (and counting) is 255 times that annual salary. This wasn’t on the spending priorities list he sold us and yet there it is — and it’s a huge sum. How does that tab advance our toils? Make the world a better place?
The levers being pulled behind the curtain do, in fact, cause tax cuts to rain down but who among us sees those millions? The vast majority of the benefits fall and stick on the gilded balconies of the few living in the palace. Outside the palace, unlike those golden jet setters, even multiple jobs don’t give us Kansans the security we need to survive an unforeseen expense — a car repair, an illness. And we’re told that the blame for our struggling lies on other people in our very own similar financial straits — our difficulties are the fault of others like us who don’t in fact have their hands on any big levers, either. Thank you, Dorothy. You pulled back the curtain and showed us that the wizard isn’t real.
Just like in the movie, our brain, our heart and our courage lie within us. The wizard never gave them to us. Let’s think about the systems that keep the golden wealth up there in the selfish excess of the private balconies. Let’s connect with our heart and our compassion for others who share this earth with us and let’s have the courage to recognize that it’s just a man behind that curtain. A very puffed up and tricky showman with his hands on some very big, greedy levers.