Call it the Wizard of Oz complex.
People run for office leaving the impression they will be all powerful and solve all of our problems. We buy into the charade telling ourselves the wizards we elect are flawless, benevolent, and walk on water. Those that don’t buy into our take on the wizard we favor are nothing but evil witches. The mere mention of the word “witch” and we go into a blind rage vowing to work to destroy them at every turn.
When the witch we perceive as evil speaks, we all shudder and scurry to tell everyone the horrors that are about to rain down on civilization.
Yet in our rush to condemn all witches we forget — or refuse to recognize — the good witches that exist.
We believe the wizard is indeed all powerful. We believe his actions are the source of our happiness, well-being, and prosperity.
In reality we hold the key to our happiness and our destiny. And even after the curtain is pulled back we persist in thinking it is the position of the wizard that is all important to our well-being. The problem, as we perceive it, is we don’t have the right person elected to the job given the system ended up putting a witch in charge that we view to be bad instead of electing our version of a great wizard.
The reality is most of us won’t accept that our happiness, lot in life, and desire for a better world is in our hands. We fail to see this for a variety of reasons. It takes work. It requires taking ownership of our miscues. We have to put ourselves out there on the rough sea of societal engagement while resisting the temptation to lash out at every perceived slight. We need to stop believing there is a magical cure or believing the grass will be greener if we just have what is on the other side of the hill. We need to understand everyone brings different skills and perspectives to the table and that they all have merit. It takes time, empathy, and understanding. It requires grasping real change that requires heart-felt and measured buy-in that by its very nature takes time and patience.
What we do instead is act like a bunch of munchkins. We mistake spreading rumor or gossip for constructive communication. We get lured by the siren song of a catchy campaign or movement slogans. We often have such a shallow grasp of what they represent that we barely dip our toes into what is really behind the chant before we blindly immerse our heart and souls into the cause allowing ourselves to be blinded by self-righteousness as opposed to basking in the glow of the result of working with others who are different to achieve common ground.
And when we as munchkins prevail instead of being gracious, conciliatory, and reaching out when we triumph at the ballot box we gleefully hit the streets to gore who view the world differently by chanting “ding dong the witch is dead” incessantly.
Do we really need great men and great women gathered in a great hall in the Emerald City along the Potomac to pass bills to order to really change the world?
Laws, just like utterances of politicians and activists pulling the levers of social discourse, are hollow unless there is buy-in. Besides, name one manmade malady that was ever erased because of a bunch of words passed by a hall teeming with wizard wannabes. Even the constitution, in a vacuum without buy-in, wouldn’t be worth the paper it is printed on.
As for us, why do we want the wizard and others to do the heavy work in the first place? As we stroll through life we lose sight of the fact we have a heart, that we have courage, and that we have a brain.
Hate is what powers evil whether it is mass shootings, violence in general, painting others with broad brushes, or belittling fellow humans using weapons such as words, abuse, harassment, and bullying.
What counters all of those bleeding wounds on humanity is having a heart. No one enters this world with their tiny fingers gripping an AK-47, hating the ethnicity of the doctor that delivered them, bullying other babies in the nursery that are different, or reducing others to only have worth if they meet your needs whether it is coerced or voluntary.
It does take courage to step up. Unfortunately we often mistakenly believe courage is a communal commodity that can’t exist without cliques, gangs, staying within groupings such as skin tone and orientation, or pledging exclusive allegiance to a political party or cause. Courage is something we call up from inside of us when faced with fears. Unlike bravery that by definition exists when there is an absence of fear within us, courage is a deliberate act. Courage is invoked through love, compassion, concern, and passion. Bravery, by contrast, retains its essence even without a cause. Bravery and courage are both admirable yet we hold bravery in higher esteem given how it is when someone risks all without not just giving it a second thought but without any previous attachment or buy-in to the person or persons they are stepping up at great risk to aid.
Courage requires going through a process to obtain. And as such it often has a far longer lasting impact on society that can span the ages. That is not to devalue true acts of bravery and their impacts but if more of us practiced courage inspired by love, compassion, concern and/or passion the world’s need for true acts of bravery would dwindle substantially.
We mistake having a brain of somehow being the domain of intellect as embodied by ivory towers, tech geniuses, and those who do not soil or callous their hands to earn a living.
In reality we all have a brain whether we are in the so-called “Fly Over Country” or are those who heeded the lemming-like call of our great coastal cities. What we do for a living and our IQ scores are not how to gauge if we have a brain.
The ability to understand, reason, and comprehend what is foreign or uncomfortable to us is the hallmark of having a brain, not a piece of paper issued by an institution.
We don’t need to pay homage to a wizard to either improve our lot in life, help the struggling kid down the street, to try and understand someone who is different, to reach out to an elderly shut in, or to work to make our neighborhoods and community a bit better every day and by extension the nation and the world.
We just need to stop looking for the answer everywhere but in our own backyard. We ultimately need to use our brains to set the course for a better way even if it is only the tiny piece of the world that is within a stone’s throw of our front porch.
Mix in courage and heart and before you know it the world will become just a little bit better one day at a time.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.