Where Is The Emerald City?

Copyright © by Len Holman, 4/29/11


  “Ding, dong, the wicked witch is dead!” sang the Munchkins.  They were so-o-o happy and relieved, they sang and danced and looked impossibly cute, but little did they know, the scary stuff wasn’t over.  Not even close.  Dorothy had a mission: to find the Wizard and get him to return her and Toto to Kansas, to her familiar, homey surroundings.  So she went on her quest, down the Yellow Brick Road, sure that the Wizard was the key to all her problems.  And so are we, contrary to all the cautionary remarks the President has made in the wake of the death of Osama Bin Laden, contrary to the Los Angeles police chief saying we need to be vigilant. 

  In the course of her travels, Dorothy found friends and plenty of danger, but she had pluck and she had Bert Lahr and Ray Bolger and Jack Haley.  We have Seal Team Six, and a political system that knows very little of reason or reasoning.  If Dorothy had looked behind the curtain and found—not the Wizard (who was gone)—but a bunch of the Wizard’s acolytes, would she have gotten back home?  What if she had found out that the Emerald City was a hall of mirrors, with no exit and no great balloon to ride away in?  

  The Wizard was a sham, but he fooled everyone into thinking he was “the great and all-powerful Oz.”  Dorothy was convinced that he was the key to her return to normalcy.  Once we got Bin Laden we were repeatedly told, we would cut off the head of the snake and Kansas would be within our grasp.  The wicked witch, however, had family who were just as mean as she was.  The search for the Wizard was a misdirect that nearly cost Dorothy and her friends their lives, and the Great Oz wasn’t in charge of anything but continuing the illusion of his own centrality to all things emerald.  Our recent Emerald City was in Pakistan, not too far from the capital, in a military town filled with soldiers looking the other way.  We found the Wizard and killed him. Now we can all go back to Kansas, right?  No. 

  No amount of celebration of the Wizard’s death will accomplish that.  The Wizard has acolytes and the balloon ride was a chopper, and Dorothy is lost with Toto in a land she doesn’t even begin to understand.  She was sold a bill of goods, the Tin Man didn’t get his heart, the lion is still afraid of his own shadow, and the scarecrow has a brain but still can’t use it wisely.  Bin Laden hasn’t been the Wizard for a long time.  We’re in the wrong city.  The flying monkeys are still strapping C-4 to their hairy chests, and we have an election coming up. 

  So where is our TRUE emerald city?  It’s found by Muslims, who call the quest “greater jihad,” within themselves.  It’s found by Christians and Jews and atheists and pagans and people just trying to make their lives a tiny bit better.  For a people like we are, who objectify everything, who externalize everything, there is no inner looking, little self-awareness, and no struggle to make ourselves better from within.  We will be on that Yellow Brick Road forever, chasing one wizard after another, looking for the green city, scared to death all the time.  Survivors, responders, and the bereaved of the 9/11 disaster will feel some closure, some relief, but it’s a localized feeling.  The Los Angeles police department has a catchy slogan: “If you see something, say something.”  This is not much protection against those flying monkeys, and our dread grows.  We dumped the wizard’s body, but can’t rid ourselves of the notion of a cure-all, of a return home.  Of course, Dorothy and Toto did return home, to their home.  Getting to the Emerald City was the key, getting to the Wizard was the trigger, but that is all not for us.  The Emerald City wasn’t green; the wizard wasn’t relevant—or armed.  We are still not in Kansas and, truth be told, we never will get back there. 

  This is the linear thinking, the Quest thinking, we do here in the USA.  Just as in the movie, where Dorothy goes in search of her escape, gaining her knights along the way, facing danger and overcoming, finding the Treasure, and gaining her reward, we think that Bin Laden was the Treasure.  Our intelligence people spent years tracking his couriers, and then we pounced.  We systematically did what we had to do on the quest, found the gold, and now...well, now what?  The American public has been warned extensively and repeatedly that the threat is still there, and we are now arguing over what Pakistan knew and when, and we are taking polls about whether to release photos of the executed Bin Laden—all the while Kansas recedes as a safe haven.  The President decided not to release the photos for fear of retaliation against our troops and ambassadors and our tourists all over the world, but it’s way too late for that.  There is more and more talk of getting out of Afghanistan, and leaving Pakistan to do whatever it takes for them to get our four billion a year.  Saudi women are discontented, Qaddafi is still hanging in, Assad is still killing protesters, and the Muslim Brotherhood is ready to help Egypt become a Vermont democracy.  And we follow that string of yellow bricks, sure that the next turn in the road is the last one before we view the magnificent emerald towers off in the distance. 

  Our quest is only a version of Groundhog Day, and we are not amused.  We are confused and angry that all is not well.  We lived the movie and THAT turned out well, so why isn’t real life like that?  Perhaps we’ve forgotten the warning scene at the end of The Wizard of Oz:  Dorothy wakes up in her bed, on the farm, with her dog, with her grandparents and the farmhands surrounding her.  But the creepy part is that the Wizard is there, too!  He’s disguised as that old buffoon with the wagon, but she knows who he really is.  The moral is that there is ALWAYS another wizard, always another colored, tantalizing road to follow—so we will.  We will run along that road and will always have another mirage to chase.  We’ll succeed in our quest-of-the-moment, but once the euphoria wears off—and it always does—we’ll be none the wiser.  After the movie ends, Dorothy realizes that she can never get away from that wizard, in color OR black and white.


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