September 3, 2004
“It’s not a place you can get to by a boat or a train. It’s far, far away. Behind the moon, beyond the rain…” says Judy Garland. Oz…the land is magic, a fantasy of turnabout reality, where bricks are yellow, tin men sing, and lions cower in fear.
Born in the stories Frank L. Baum told his sons and their friends, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published May 15, 1900, and became the biggest selling children’s book of the year. In 1939, Hollywood’s golden year, MGM released the movie of Oz where Munchkinland exploded in psychedelic Technicolor.
The film enjoyed modest success in the theaters, but quickly became a cultural legacy after its debut on television in American homes. The story is as fresh today as it was seventy five years ago when Judy Garland as Dorothy hurled through the sky in a Kansas tornado.
Strangely similar, radically different, the Land of Oz is both delightful and frightening. Dorothy is greeted in song and celebration by Munchkins celebrating the death of a terrible witch. And in a fight for her life, she is terrorized by Nikko, the Winkies, and vicious flying monkeys. In a battle to survive, Dorothy must separate fact from fiction, real from false, and pull the curtain back to reveal the truth behind it.
Today, caught in our own modern parallel universe, we are engaged in a battle of survival every bit as intense as that of Dorothy. Ours is a land where the delightful is also frightening, where false is disguised as truth.
Our own battle began as America spun out of the 50s and set a new world in motion in the 1960s, a world most easily pictured in scenes from the free and easy musical fest of Woodstock. Drugs flowed freely and sex was easy…a world of relaxed virtues guided by a new ethic…if it feels good, do it.
Yellow colored a submarine, and bricks paved Abbey Road. Like the Land of Oz, psychedelic colors ruled the day, and music fueled passions. But the end of our story is much more difficult to wrap up than Dorothy’s. It’s not nearly as simple as throwing a bucket of water on the Wicked Witch and watching her melt.
- In 1950, there were two STDs; today there are over 25.
- The two STDs of the 50s were curable; today serious STDs are incurable and fatal.
- HIV/AIDS was once non-existent; twenty years after the first reported case in 1981, close to one million Americans live with the virus.
- On television, the Lucy we loved became pregnant after she married Rickie; today the modern Lucy is one of nearly a million unwed teens who will become pregnant this year.
- Way back when, pregnancies were planned and welcomed; in 2000, 1.3 million pregnancies were aborted.
- Crooners once sang Love Me Tender; rappers now chant porn star stamina.
These “milestones” of modern life are enough to make us despair. But the true darkness of today’s world is measured by the innocent face of a child who doesn’t know the world was once a safe and secure place. We’re not in Kansas anymore.
We know it. But what about our children? They have grown up thinking monkeys always flew and psychedelic is a primary color. Dorothy made it back to Kansas because she had a vision of the world she used to live in. She knew Kansas existed.
“Oh — what a world — what a world! Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness!?” screamed the dying witch, melting in the puddle of water. It is possible for today’s girls and boys to do the same in our own parallel world…if we only pull back the curtain on lies from the 60s that have outlived their welcome.
We need to paint a picture for our children of what life looks like when sex is part of a lifelong marriage of mutual respect. We must restore the honor and respect between sexes that once existed. And it is no small challenge to pull the curtains back on Hollywood wizards who trade on illusion, destroying the simple treasure of decency once valued by all…in Kansas.
Sex will always be easy, but it is no longer free. In the midst of an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases and broken relationships, the challenge for us is to courageously face and reveal the truth to our children. Kansas is still a home waiting for us to return.
With the truth in hand, the Good Witch Glinda’s advice to Dorothy works for us as well. We have always had the answer within us. Just click our heels three times and turn. Turn away from our promiscuous ways. Teach our children sexual abstinence is the expected standard until they marry. And, most importantly, believe in our children and their ability to succeed.
Kansas has never disappeared. We can always return…if we set our hearts on it. Dorothy made it home. We can, too.
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