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OZ
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…we had better, in order to protect our civilization…wipe these

untamed and untameable creatures from the face of the earth.

—L. Frank Baum, in an editorial following the Wounded Knee massacre

 

We watched, waited in terror for the terrible

Moment to come so we could peek through sealed eyes

As before, the showdown at the end

Between sadist and ingénue, red sand

In a rococo hourglass, the few grains that remain

Of her time on earth, when not just Dorothy learns

That death isn’t for laughs like the coyote

Smashed chasing Road Runner. The witch’s plain face

Wrings itself in earnest, the scariest part

How human she looks even with her green skin,

Pale anyway in the set’s black and white fuzz,

How much like Miss Fosnaugh who taught third grade,

Or Amelia the landlord, or even Mr. Hatch

My friend Billy’s lush uncle, gaunt chin quivering

After we tore a mouth in his vinyl couch. Just then

And from then on the living room’s shadows fell

Long and felt close. We could see our own blue ghosts

In the window, could almost believe our house

Stood elsewhere. No matter what followed--

The bucket’s sloshed justice and cheering mobs,

The wizard who conjured the whole miracle tale

From the black plains of his humbug heart, 

Claiming he had no power--we knew

What might have, that there was no place

Like home, that Oz with its metropolis gleaming

In the distance like Chicago or Wichita,

Its soporific fields and clicking shoes,

Gilded roads, really was magic: a land

Where anything could happen, where there were no rules.

 

                                                     —David Moolten

Comments
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A visceral response

Many words in the English language provoke primal responses, but for me the most visceral are racism, massacre, genocide. After Frank Baum’s true character was revealed by your post, I read his shameful editorials, which should be required reading for those innocents who have viewed him as an inspiration for these long years. (I frankly always disliked all things Oz, but that’s a moot point.)
We do live in a strange, multi-layered world, much stranger than any fantasy, where racists write moral tales and genocidal dictators paint watercolors. Thanks for bringing another layer to our attention.
Best,
Mara Buck

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Mara, Thank you for your

Mara, Thank you for your response. What for me is the [second] most disturbing feature of Baum's character is that he was not in general a mean-spirited person. It would be so much easier if it were possible to relegate hateful artists (or anyone for that matter) to a kind of mental Botany Bay. Unfortunately, we are all indicted when someone who apparently was a kind man overall, loved children etc, lapses so flagrantly (in response to saber-rattling and an overall atmosphere of tension in the setting of the "Indian wars"). This doesn't in the least excuse him, or remove the tarnish from his accomplishments. But it does beg the question who are todays bogeymen (or women)? Long after it has become conveniently too late to make substantive amends for what happened to the "Indians"(though a heck of a lot more than is being done, should be), most of us recognize the magnitude of the crime which was perpetrated against Native Americans. Unfortunately, it seems there's plenty of genocidal impulse left in humanity (Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur...), and as Americans we aren't out of the equation. That anger in the gut so many have against Muslims (however outraged we all might be about 9/11) still makes me more than a little uneasy.

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Wouldn't it be something

If only only we could sing it and really mean it: Ding Dong, the [witch] is dead...

Yeah, that'd be great.

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Hi Ron,  The witch will

Hi Ron,

 The witch will never be dead.  To paraphrase that old saying, "I have met the witch, and she is us."