One of my favorite childhood memories was snuggling with my mother or sitting cross-legged on the floor with her closest girlfriends nearby, Aunt Evelyn or Aunt Gwen, and watching movies – sometimes musicals, sometimes dramas – always guaranteed to provide a message at the end or a memorable moral to the story.
I guess it was inevitable that I’d grow to love such films and look forward to those evenings since my mother and all of my “aunts” were elementary school teachers.
Three of those movies remain at the top of my list: “A Christmas Carol,” “The Ten Commandments,” and “The Wizard of Oz” – but my favorite is the latter.
You see, I had an insatiable thirst for knowledge. Books were my best friends and reading was something I did for pleasure, not because it was required at the behest of my parents or my teachers. Sometimes, I even found myself changing the ending of a movie so the outcome would be more to my liking.
As for “The Wizard of Oz,” I could relate to Dorothy who, at the end of the story, finally realizes “there’s no place like home,” because I loved my family and the home that they provided for me and my older sister. It may not have been as grand as a castle. And no, we didn’t have every luxury item that I may have desired. But it was still “perfect” in my sight. It was home!
I understood the challenges faced by the Lion who lacked courage because sometimes, life was rather frightening, especially when the Detroit Riots erupted in the late 60s or when there were rumors of forced busing during my high school years.
And because of racism and the stories that my parents and grandparents shared from their pasts in Alabama, Florida and Virginia, I refused to find myself trapped like the Scarecrow – a man without a brain – therefore one who could not impact or determine his own destiny.
I can’t say why for sure, but while watching the recent interview between the new Meet the Press moderator, Kristen Welker, and former President Donald Trump, I kept having flashbacks to the Scarecrow as he skipped along the Yellow Brick Road, arm-in-arm with Dorothy, the Lion and the Tin Man. At times, I felt like I was being set up to be the Scarecrow.
Trump was at his best, ducking and dodging Welker’s questions in a style reminiscent of Muhammad Ali’s signature form: “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” As expected, Trump was defiant, eagerly sparring with Welker for more than an hour from his Bedminster, New Jersey, estate, asserting his belief that he had little to fear about his many legal issues and his role in the Jan. 6 attack. At the same time, he continued to promote falsehoods about the 2020 election.
I have to give it to the former president – he has learned a lot about the art of debate since the last election as he gave himself plenty of space to wiggle around critical issues like abortion, the economy, energy policies including the problem of global warming and the war in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, he remained as combative as ever about the charges he faces and the role he has played in diminishing the trust Americans have in democracy and in the institutions that have long served as the bedrock of our nation.
With his trademark blend of conspiracy theories and self-aggrandizement, Trump was – well – Trump. And for a moment or two, I must sadly admit, I began to believe him. For a few brief minutes I found myself being reeled in by the Trumpster, just like the Scarecrow would have found himself because he was a man without a brain. That is, until I remembered that I had “a brain.”
With that, and after the interview, I began to critically examine and analyze the assertions that Trump made. After identifying 14 erroneous statements, I stopped counting. For while Trump was deficient in providing any substantive policy, he was superb at appealing to his base of followers.
Consider the following:
He said he isn’t afraid of going to prison and that he doesn’t worry or even think about it.
He said he likes democracy but not how the U.S. system currently works.
He refused to rule out pardoning himself if elected but said it was “very unlikely.”
He admitted that he ignored legal advice from his attorneys who told him the 2020 election was not stolen.
He said he needed “22,000 votes” in each state to win in 2020 but then claimed he still won.
He said, reacting to Putin’s praise of him, “I like that he said that.”
And he would not say if he would provide military support to Taiwan against an invasion from China.
But what really made me grateful for not being like the easily swayed, mindless Scarecrow, was Trump’s recent false claim that polls show his support among African Americans has quadrupled or quintupled since his infamous “mug shot” was released in August following his arrest in Fulton County, Georgia.
Come on Donald!! Next, you’ll say you own a bridge in San Francisco that I could purchase for little or nothing.
I still believe, like Dorothy, that “there’s no place like home” – even though I don’t know what direction America is headed toward as we prepare to elect the next president next year.
However, since I, unlike the Scarecrow, have a sound brain and well-oiled critical skills, if Trump wants me to believe him, he’s going to have to do a lot more than put on a good dog and pony show. And I pray that I am not alone.