One of my absolutely favorite films from my childhood is “The Wizard of Oz”. Now, for those who have read the original L. Frank Baum books and find the 1939 musical film cheesy, not true to the story and so on, I agree but it’s still a really entertaining movie in that Golden Age mold of ‘all singing! All dancing!’
It’s also, a particularly apt film for this particular moment in time, which is the changeover of Administrations from sort of collective Wicked Witch of the West to perhaps the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Cowardly Lion and Dorothy. Two scenes in this movie stand out for me (and no, one of them is NOT the Wicked Witch calling on the flying monkeys): Right after Dorothy emerges from her house(which has just fallen on another wicked witch, whose legs will soon shrivel up, striped stockings and all, leaving the famed ruby slippers for Dorothy).
As Dorothy enters the sunlight (and the film changes to the brand new Technicolor Process), she is soon enveloped by the Munchkins, who welcome her with wonder, glee and some pretty clever songs. It is obvious that they have been hiding, waiting for someone.
Anyone who watched the news videos this week of Hillary Clinton’s entrance into the Department of State would have been struck by the outpouring of the staffers there. She was surrounded by people; people taking photographs with their phones and cameras; people who obviously knew her from somewhere before; people who were just trying to pump her hand, to touch her, people who were just so damned glad that SHE was there. The only thing I did not see was someone throw themselves on the ground to kiss the hem of her pantsuit. Dorothy had landed; the wicked witch was dead, and the Munchkins had emerged to celebrate and throw off their fear.
There has been a lot made of Russell Tice, he of the two-night Keith Olbermann interview about NSA spying and electronic sweeps. Mr. Tice has certainly had his scuffles with people trying to control the information he wanted to give out. As a whistle blower, he’s been put in the position of being fired, his house being raided by the FBI and living under general threat. I am sure that there are many who feel he is a courageous man for coming out; even with Bush and Cheney physically gone, they have left many in positions to hurt Russell Tice.
And yet, I also read today(and don’t ask me where; I think it was in an email that someone passed along that someone else had passed along because I can’t find any news link on it) that the reception that Arne Duncan received on his first day at the Department of Education was much the same as Hillary Clinton’s. A little less effusive, perhaps – after all, he did not arrive with seeming rock star status complete with news cameras and an expected visit from the new president and vice president with announcements.
But staffers at DOE were there to greet him in the cafeteria, genuinely happy to see him, to see someone who so obviously appreciated them – who was glad to see the infrastructure of the department was still there. People had stayed to ‘hold the fort’ for the past 8 years. Just like at State – even with what had been thrown at them by Rice (and I won’t go into it here – suffice it say that the place has been demoralized beyond belief), they came out not only to celebrate a new beginning, but to also let Clinton, Obama and Biden know, “We’re still here — the people who work for the American People stayed.”
There’s all kinds of courage, which of course brings me to my other favorite scene, where Bert Lahr, as the Cowardly Lion, takes his stand on the subject most important to him:
Courage. What makes a King out of a slave? Courage.
What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage.
What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist or the dusky dusk?
What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage.
What makes the Sphinx the 7th Wonder? Courage.
What makes the dawn come up like THUNDER?! Courage.
What makes the Hottentot so hot?
What puts the "ape" in ape-ricot?
Whatta they got that I ain’t got?
There has been a lot of talk and information out about Bush and Cheney ‘burrowing in’ political appointees during the last year, how the federal agencies basically have been eviscerated and ruined under their collective negligence. I think what we are going to find, after seeing those videos and reading about Arne Duncan at Education is that for all of the efforts to twist the federal bureaucracy into a hollow, incompetent creature, in many of the agencies, the core of the place is still there – people with collective memory who can be counted on to be the foundation to build upon. Yes, perhaps there will be some cleaning up. Yes, it’s obvious from some information that valuable records have perhaps been lost or destroyed. Yes, perhaps some people will find that having been ‘burrowed in’ to lower paying positions will not be to their liking and they will leave…or their own incompetence will give them away.
But sometimes, hanging on by your toenails no matter what is courage too. We’re still here.