“Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don't you think?”
Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
It is interesting to begin a story about a story with a story. However, this could easily be considered a parable and could actually explain some of the situations we find ourselves in today.
The Wizard of Oz. This 1939 MGM classic film was based on a children’s book of the same title by the most successful children’s writer of the early part of the 20th century- L. Frank Baum. The Wizard of Oz was a wonderful and colorful story that jumped from the pages of children’s literature to the big screen during the best year of movie-making in Hollywood- 1939. Hollywood was at its peak, the movie studios were at their peak and much of America was about to drastically change. The only constants in this period of last vestiges of the depression were the American people's deep belief in religion and God.
Chloe Schama wrote in a June 25, 2009 magazine article entitled, “Frank Baum, the Man Behind the Curtain” for the SMITHSONIANMAG.COM the following:
When The Wizard of Oz was published in 1900 with illustrations by the Chicago-based artist William Wallace Denslow, Baum became not only the best-selling children’s book author in the country but also the founder of a genre. Until this point, American children read European literature; there had never been a successful American children’s book author. Unlike other books for children, The Wizard of Oz was pleasingly informal; characters were defined by their actions rather than authorial discourse, and morality was a subtext rather than a juggernaut rolling through the text. The New York Times wrote that children would be “pleased with dashes of color and something new in the place of the old, familiar, and winged fairies of Grimm and Anderson.”
But the book was much more than a fairy tale unshackled from moralistic imperatives and tired fantastical creatures. With his skepticism toward God—or men posing as gods--Baum affirmed the idea of human fallibility, but also the idea of human divinity. The Wizard may be a huckster—a short bald man born in Omaha rather than an all-powerful being—but meek and mild Dorothy, also a mere mortal, has the power within herself to carry out her desires. The story, says Schwartz, is less a “coming-of-age story … and more a transformation of consciousness story.” With The Wizard of Oz, the power of self-reliance was colorfully illustrated.
Please note the concepts that are prevalent in many articles published today- the promotion of human divinity and not divine divinity. We see that a short balding man born in Omaha, Nebraska was elevated in this society to be the great and wonderful wizard of Oz. He could solve all problems and sought out to fix all things. Dorothy and her friends soon find out that along the journey to seek is infinite wisdom, they find the journey provides more help than the end destination. This is a perfect jumping-off point for the reason for this article today.
Why the Wizard of Oz? Maybe we should look back at one more paragraph from Schama’s 2009 article:
It seems appropriate that a story with such mythical dimensions has inspired its own legends—the most enduring, perhaps, being that The Wizard of Oz was a parable for populism. In the 1960s, searching for a way to engage his students, a high-school teacher named Harry Littlefield, connected The Wizard of Oz to the late-19th-century political movement, with the Yellow Brick Road representing the gold standard—a false path to prosperity—and the book's silver slippers standing in for the introduction of silver—an alternate means to the desired destination. Years later, Littlefield would admit that he devised the theory to teach his students and that there was no evidence that Baum was a populist, but the theory still sticks.
“No thief, however skillful, can rob one of knowledge, and that is why knowledge is the best and safest treasure to acquire.”
? L. Frank Baum, The Lost Princess of Oz
“It is such an uncomfortable feeling to know one is a fool.”
? L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
In 1964, the American History Teacher, Henry M Littlefield wrote an article entitled, “The Wizard of Oz: Parable on Populism,” for the American Quarterly, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Spring, 1964), pp. 47-58 that was published by John Hopkins University. Needless to say, he had a very different take on Wizard Of Oz than Chloe Schama did in her article.
Mr. Littlefield concluded that this book was a rich metaphor for the last part of 19th century America.
Curator Peter Liebhold took a trip to the children's section of the library for inspiration in understanding the economic factors of the same book by L Frank Baum that in the mind of Liebhold promoted populism when he wrote this article for the National Museum of History entitled, “ Populism and the World of Oz, “ Nov. 2, 2016. Liebhold wrote:
In 1964 Henry Littlefield, a Columbia University-trained historian wrote a breakthrough article in the scholarly American Quarterly titled “The Wizard of Oz: Parable on Populism.” In the article, Littlefield made the bold claim that Frank Baum's 1900 book "conceals an unsuspected depth." The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was, Littlefield thought, “a Midwesterner’s vibrant and ironic portrait of this country as it entered the twentieth century.” Specifically, Littlefield argued that the story of The Wizard of Oz was an elaborate metaphor for the Populist movement (a rising political force in the 1890s) and a critique of the complicated national debates over monetary policy. What made Littlefield's claim bold was its departure from common wisdom. Up until this point The Wizard of Oz was well known in the United States, but only as a popular children’s fairy tale (written in 1900), a successful musical stage production (opened in 1902), and an iconic motion picture (debuted in 1939). Since most of us don't walk around thinking about the social movements and political debates of the late 1800s, a quick refresher on populism is in order. Similar to parties on our political landscape today, the Populist movement was a rising third-party campaign of angry disenfranchised “plain people” (farmers and, to a smaller degree, factory workers) seeking to wrest power from bankers and business leaders. United under the banner of the People’s (Populist) Party, these men and women sought a fundamental economic change in order to break the power of concentrated capital. Populists advocated for bimetallism (the coining of both gold and silver), nationalizing the railroads, a graduated income tax, and a decrease in immigration. They believed that adopting silver (in addition to the gold standard) would pump money into the economy, resulting in limited inflation—a good chance for people paying mortgages, a bad one for the banks holding loans.
It is interesting to note for all those students of L Frank Baum’s book that the ruby red slippers that Judy Garland wore in the movie were actually silver in the book. They were changed by the magic of Hollywood because MGM was filming this movie in color and they wanted to dazzle the audience. Imagine changing the narrative to suit your purposes? Liebhold pointed out that the silver slippers walking down the yellow brick road represented the silver standard versus the gold standard. Cheap money versus money that really held its value. In 1939 it was changed to red because it showed up better on the film than the silver.
“Everything has to come to an end, sometime.”
? L. Frank Baum, The Marvelous Land of Oz
Now, what if we could use the Wizard of Oz to say it a metaphor for life in the United States today. We have a Wizard who is pontificating power and leading all of the people to believe that the largest problem today before them is the environment. Now remember like in the story, the wizard is just a human being full of human frailties and foibles. He really and honestly doesn't really know what he is talking about. His power comes from misdirection and deceit. We are looking at the voice and projection of the individual and not looking behind the curtain. Why? Why? Why?
Satan is behind the lies. Satan is the father of all lies
John 8: 44
You belong to your father the devil and you willingly carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies.
So in our story, the Wizard becomes a person who is a distraction for Dorothy it was a quest to go home. Why not then begin to think that the Wizard could actually be a politician misleading the people. Telling them what they want to hear so he can stay in power or even worse misleading them so he can maintain power over them.
Dorothy's problem is our problem. We are on a journey back home. Our home and our goal may not be Kansas- it should be heaven. Our Wizard is not human but divine. Our Wizard will not give us bad advice or steer us wrong. Our Wizard really and truly loves us. Brothers and Sisters, I implore enough is enough. Do not get yourself off the path that will lead you to heaven. Do not be pulled off this path by shinning objects or causes that take you away from your stated goal. We did not come to this earth to obtain the riches of this earth but to obtain riches in the next life. Our goal is not to make heaven on earth but it is to make it to heaven from earth. Our goal is and should be to worship, obey and serve Him every day. Brothers and Sisters, we too on this same road as Dorothy and her friends. This is not a child’s story, this is not a movie, this is your wonderful life. Make the most of every single day you have on earth. Give to others and give to God. When you do these things you are working out your own salvation and headed on the correct path to live with Him in Heaven after this life. Amen