You will remember the famous line from the Wizard of Oz, spoken by Dorothy to her dog Toto just after they arrive in a strange and magical land: ‘We’re not in Kansas anymore.’ Over the years that phrase has entered the vernacular, generally used to indicate the moment when you realize you’ve entered unknown territory, that you’ve come to a place, whether physical or metaphysical, where you’ve never before been.
So where are we today? With constant protests and regular ‘executive orders.’ With immigration bans and simmering anger. With simple and straight forward facts being doubted and questioned and sometimes blatantly denied. I actually had to step between two men in their 80s at our kiddish after services this past Shabbat. I was afraid they were going to come to blows, one speaking out in support of the administration, one against. Both of them, by the way, are immigrants.
Wherever we are, we are not in Kansas. Of that I am sure. I guess the question might be how do we get back?
Being honest, at this point I don’t know. Perhaps the Wizard of Oz is instructive. Dorothy had a long way to go before she found her way back home. Challenges and even some dangers to overcome. The Yellow Brick Road. The Lion and Scarecrow and Tin Man. Those weird looking flying monkey things. The Emerald City, even the Wizard of Oz himself. And of course the Wicked Witch! Along the way she had moments of heartbreak, despair, and doubt. And even at the end of that long road it was touch and go. But she made it. And when she arrived, boy did Kansas look good.
And all the way through she maintained the courage of her convictions. Not that she didn’t learn along the way, and change and grow. She did! But her innate sense of decency and fairness and the kindly inclination of her heart remained steady.
Maybe that is what is happening in America today. People are realizing what really matters to them, and the country itself is rediscovering fundamental values like tolerance and kindness, caring for the marginalized, and welcoming the stranger, fairness and human dignity. Sounds a lot like Kansas. And people have been pulling their ruby red slippers out of their closets all over this land.