HETRICK: Offing the wizard in the wonderful Land of Oz

February 26, 2011

One morning, over the rainbow in the Land of Oz, Professor Mitch Marvel stood behind a curtain in his laboratory, tinkering with the controls of state.

As he worked, he sang his favorite tune:

Jobs, jobs here; schools, schools there,

And lose the township perks,

That’s how we pass the day away,

And build an Oz that works!

All of a sudden, there was a loud banging on the outer door of the Emerald City. Professor Marvel’s trusty aide Harley rushed down the long, cavernous corridor to answer.

On the doorstep stood three of Professor Marvel’s Emerald Party colleagues—one homeless, one heartless, one cowardly.

Proclaiming urgent need, they begged for immediate guidance from the great and powerful professor.

Harley ushered them in and directed them down the long hall. As they marched away, he heard them chanting:

Foreigners and unions and gays, oh my!

Foreigners and unions and gays, oh my!

Foreigners and unions and gays, oh my!

Foreigners and unions and gays, oh my!

“Hey, y’all,” said the professor, startling his preoccupied partisans. “Welcome to Oz headquarters. What can I do for you?”

“We’re, um, worried,” said homeless Dorothy.

“About what?” said Professor Marvel. “Life is good! Unlike other states, our budget is balanced. We froze property taxes. Heck, we still have a rainy-day fund while other guys just have rain!

“What’s more, we’re doin’ better than our neighbors in the Lands of Ill, Oh, Mi, Wi and Kent. We have a real shot at school and local-government reform. And hey, we’re bein’ mentioned nationwide as a model for how to do things right. I was even on ‘The Diane Rehm Show!’”

“Well, um, that’s true,” said Dorothy, “But there are foreigners out there: wicked witches and squeaky Munchkins and flying monkeys. We need to see their papers and kick them out.”

“Yeah,” said the heartless Tin Man. “And I know in this hollow chest of mine that collective bargaining is the root of all evil. We need to axe those unions once and for all.” (He swung his axe for emphasis, barely missing the professor’s foot.)

“N-n-n-not only that,” stammered the Cowardly Lion. “We’re sc-sc-scared some o’ them Munchkins might be gay and them witches lesbians. And if they p-p-pair up, they might recruit our c-c-cubs.”

“Look,” said Professor Marvel. “With all due respect, we need to skip that stuff for now. Call it a time-out—like in all-day kindergarten.

“These issues you’re scaring up are divisive. They pit people against one another instead of uniting ’em toward a common cause. We need to be chasing the Emerald ring—not one another. If you dredge this stuff up, you’re just gonna get us sidetracked from the real work that needs to be done—jobs, schools and local-government reform.”

“B-b-but,” said the Cowardly Lion.

“But the Tea Party!” said Dorothy.

“But the bloated budget!” said the Tin Man.

“B-but the gays,” said the Cowardly Lion.

“But illegal immigrants,” said Dorothy.

“But the unions,” said the Tin Man.

“But nothing,” said Professor Marvel. “Look, we’ve been in charge here for five years. Our budget is balanced. We’ve cut the fat others only promise to cut. Gay marriage is already outlawed. Illegal immigration is not the problem it is in Arizona; nor do we need a ‘book ’em, Danno’ solution. Most important, even in the midst of a terrible recession, we’ve kept job losses reasonable and added lots of new ones. We are the change others only talk about.”

“But … ” said Dorothy

“No buts!” said the professor. “Now, let me be clear about one other thing. Folks are sayin’ I oughta become the Great and Powerful Oz.

“I don’t know nothin’ ’bout that higher-office stuff. But I do know that we have problems enough with the Yellow Brick Road Party. Heck, y’all watched as they followed that maize-bellied path all the way to Urbana and shut you down.

“But even if Wolf Blitzer thinks I have a prayer at higher office, here’s what I don’t need: I don’t need y’all paintin’ me into corners and pinnin’ my sore shoulder to the mat with no-win decisions on foreigners, unions, gays and whatnot. You and I just don’t need that right now.

“We need a state of prosperity, not a state of intolerance. So please, just leave the divisive stuff alone.”

With that, the would-be Wizard of Oz returned to his work.

Their marching orders clear, the Emerald Party leaders headed back down the hallway, their pace quickening, their voices rising, as they chanted:

Foreigners and unions and gays, oh my!

Foreigners and unions and gays, oh my!

Foreigners and unions and gays, oh my!

“Alas,” Harley sighed, “they pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”•


Hetrick is chairman and CEO of Hetrick Communications Inc., an Indianapolis-based public relations and marketing communications firm. His column appears twice a month. He can be reached at bhetrick@ibj.com.


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