June 5, 1939
“Frances Ethel Gumm (Judy Garland) grew up singing and dancing with her sisters at her father’s movie house in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
The family moved to California, and in 1939 17-year-old Judy goes “over the rainbow” as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.” *
Frances, also known as Baby, began her performing career at the age of two and a half years when she joined her sisters in a song and dance routine. She performed her first public solo at her parent’s vaudevillian theatre, the Grand Theatre, singing a rendition of Jingle Bells.
Her astounding career and work ethic speaks for itself. Few American artists have connected with the public and emblazoned their names on the hearts’ of audiences as she. Please peruse the link to her museum, and see her for yourself?**
She knew the golden rules of performing: know yourself, gains skills to express yourself through your medium or instrument, and embrace the vulnerability of being authentic in front of an audience. That said, how did this iconic performer and recording artist view herself?
“Basically, I am still Judy Garland, a plain American girl from Grand Rapids, Minnesota, who’s had a lot of good breaks, a few tough breaks, and who loves you with all her heart for your kindness in understanding that I am nothing more, nothing less.” **
So we go to watch with You today, Holy Spirit, and ponder this event. We remember that You are the Ultimate Artist and portrayed Your performance across the universe! With the Psalmist we confess that “the heavens declare the glory of G-d”!
We give You thanks for relating to Minnesotans through the story of “The Wizard of Oz”. We applaud its author, L. Frank Baum, and the way it could be read on multiple levels. To the children, it’s a fantastical retelling of an old plot: kid wants adventure, kid experiences life, and kid finds that “there’s no place like home”.
To the adults of the era, another plot unfolds relating to the American economy of the late 19th and early 20th century. The scarecrow is a personification of the Midwestern farmer: the beatings he took in the Dustbowl, the poverty and hardships endured by the manipulations of the Eastern Establishment and Wall Street, and the judgments by the same that he was just an ignorant red-neck. ***
Tinwoodsman recalls the lives of factory workers, miners, and timber industry. He symbolized the unemployment of the Rust Belt, and anguish of laborers. He was said to have no heart, but was that true or was the the projections of industrialists and their dehumanization of their workers? ***
The figure of the Cowardly Lion can be construed to represent the Populist movement, or its most vocal representative; William Jennings Bryan. An outstanding orator, he was referred to as a “lion” for his causes, namely Bimetalism which advocated backing American dollars with both gold and silver. Gold values, it was thought, were more easily manipulated by Wall Street and Lombard Street a.k.a the Bank of England. ***
Further, the Wicked Witches were symbols of economic elites on the West and East coast who controlled the rest of the country through the power of the Emerald City (Washington, D.C. or New York City) and the Wizard (the President of the United States). All the great power of OZ was based on gold. One must follow the “yellow brick road”, get to the Great Wizard, and pull back the curtain on his frailties. The Wizard is just a man with smoke, mirrors, and a loud microphone!? ***
In sum, we recount the self-acceptance of Judy Garland within her portrayal of Dorothy, and the dual plot lines of Baum calling children and adults to come home. We hear its distant warnings of the noise of our political machinery, the spirit of manipulation in the business of money, and the calls to use one’s brain, trust one’s heart, and take courage. We hear Your message of encouragement in an age of deceit, greed, lawlessness, and manipulated algorithms; “Though they intend You harm, the schemes they devise will not prevail.” Psalms 21:11
Will You forgive us, the Only Truly Wise One, of believing the putdowns of those who oppose us? We are made in the Image of Your Thought, therefore, we can think! We are made in the Image of Christ, Our self-sacrificing Messiah, therefore, we can overcome any offense through merciful, new hearts! You have been struck down, yet are risen, therefore, we will rise when struck with betrayals, tragedies, and self-hatred through choosing to live in Your courage!
“And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald.” ESV Revelations 4:3