Challenges for the new year

By: Louis R. Avallone

As a child, I always looked forward to watching the movie, The Wizard of Oz. It was broadcast only once year, it seems. As I remember it, 7 p.m., Friday nights, on CBS. I used to watch it with my grandmother, every year. Now, I watch it with my children.

There are many life lessons to be learned from The Wizard of Oz, lessons I probably took for granted these many years.

For example, don’t stand next to windows during tornados. Be careful what you wish for. Be nice to the little people as they may have powerful friends. When something knocks the “stuffings” out of you, just stuff it back in and move on. If life tosses you lemons, make lemonade. If life tosses you apples, just eat them. Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable. Courage is not being fearless; Courage is overcoming fear.

Then there is the lesson that the grass is not always greener over the rainbow. If one has a problem with water, one should not play with fire. When you go looking for your heart’s desire, don’t look further than your own front porch. When you think you are the most helpless, you still have an amazing ability to help yourself. And, of course, there is no place like home.

Despite the countless times I have watched it before, I realize now these lessons perhaps contain the most brilliant illustration of the American dream and the spirit that made this nation great. I couldn’t help comparing the similarities between these life lessons, from The Wizard of Oz, with our nation’s current economic and political challenges for the new year.

There are obvious similarities. For example: Lots of folks are scared. They are concerned about their job, the availability of credit, losing their home, or watching their retirement investments dwindle down in a poorly performing stock market. Although the “lion” didn’t realize it until the end of the story, we should recognize courage is in overcoming our fear, not in being fearless about our future. Furthermore, most challenges in life seem far more insurmountable than they actually are, like melting the formidable Wicked Witch with a pail of plain water. And finally, of course, with a few good friends, like your fellow Americans, we all can get through anything. Americans always have...and became the better for it.

Nonetheless, and perhaps not as obvious, however, The Wizard of Oz may contain the most succinct criticism and indictment of liberal, populist politics of at least the past 50 years.

You see, today, it is all about bigger government and how bigger is better; about how the government can solve your problems. Did you extend credit to folks, in the form of home mortgages, who were not financially prepared to pay you back? Go see the federal government. Like the Oz character himself, surely the federal government can bail you out with the $750 billion needed. Is your car company losing $2,800 on every vehicle it sells? Go see the government. Surely, they can bail you out with the $13.4 billion needed. Follow the yellow brick road to Emerald City (or Washington, D.C.), right? The great Oz (bigger government) can surely solve your quandary.

But bigger government is not the answer, no more than Oz was the panacea for Dorothy, Toto, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion. In fact, Oz was a mere mortal man himself, with his own problems, all while making the illusion he had all the answers. And in Emerald City, as it is so often in life, all that glitters isn’t gold, even when you wear green-colored glasses.

Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion didn’t need to realize the potential of government (or rather, Oz). All these characters needed to do was realize their own potential and manifest it.

And as the story ends, Dorothy asks Glinda, the Good Witch, to help her once more to get back home to Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. Glinda shares the most valuable advice of all: “You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas.”

Right, she always had the power, within herself. Just like Scarecrow, to whom Oz presented a diploma, who already had just as much brains as those who graduated from the most prestigious universities. Or Tin Man, who was already as sentimental as any man could be. Or Lion who was already courageous, but just didn’t know it yet.

All of us just need to be reminded we have the power within ourselves, much more often than not, to solve our own problems. And any political party (or wizard) that promises to solve your problems for you, in return for your vote, is most often perpetrating an illusion upon us all, like the people-pleasing puppeteer Oz, who, it was revealed, was simply pulling strings, behind the curtain.

This new year, may we all be reminded we have the power, endowed by our Creator, within ourselves, to solve so much of what challenges us and that “somewhere over the rainbow” is often right in our own backyard. Happy New Year!

Louis R. Avallone is a Louisiana native, attorney and small business employer in the construction industry from Shreveport. He can be contacted at louisavallone@mac.com

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