There is a Dear One who lives in Washington D.C. and who would move back to Texas but for a few things, two of them being “Texas has tornadoes” and “D.C. has lots to offer.” True, very true.
Surely there are many delights for folk who live inside the Beltway. But one of them, certainly, is simply that there are many delights Beyond the Beltway, in many most sociable and historic locales, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, just to start a list, one rather long as you know.
Far from the Beltway, perhaps far enough to gain treasured perspective about matters within and without the fabled, enchanted, fantastical Beltway, lies the Great State of Texas. As Mr. Tubb used to sing, “There’s a Little Bit of Everything in Texas.” Yes, more and more, I say, a little bit of everything for most everyone. Again, as Ernest Tubb put it, ” . . . and a little bit of Texas in me!”
And, yes, even tornadoes, twisters, cyclones, what have you. But is there one for everyone? I think not; no, not enough tornadoes for everyone. Why, a fella or a gal might live to be ninety-nine in Texas and never see, or hear, a tornado, at least not “up close and personal” as some like to say. It’s true most folk want to avoid that type of encounter.
The topic brings to memory a story about a Kansas girl swooshed up in a tornado to the land of Oz. Oz was L. Frank Baum’s fantasiacal, allegorical double for the Good ‘Ol U.S.A., and the Emerald City for Washington, D.C., the enchanted capital where the Yellow Brick Road ended. I refrain from recapitulating the adventures of Dorothy and her companions in Oz, and her disenchantment upon learning that the Wizard of Oz was just a man like any other. Baum’s Wizard stood in for the Gilded Age American presidents, according to one interpretation. I agree with it.
We have a love-hate relationship with our capital and the doings in the Capitol chambers, the presidential and congressional politics, and the profound weight of bureaucracy in service to our Republic. Asked how much of the bureaucracy we would like to keep, we would have to admit that much of it seems to meet more than a few of our needs. And asked whether we would do away with our government, we might pause long enough to ask how we could replace it. We will settle for improvements. And we will accept that our government is as humanly limited as any other institution, it’s just bigger.
From the founding of our republic, indeed before that, presidents, congressmen, civil servants, students, interns and others have come to the point in life’s journey when they know it is time to “go home,” to “come home.” Their work is done, able to do no more, they leave what is yet to be done to others.
Dorothy, once delivered to OZ by tornado, finds her way home (after having helped others out in her sweet, Kansasy-American way) by clicking her silver shoes together (in Baum’s reference to the Silver Crusade of the late 180os). In the cinematic version, her heart’s deepest desire does the real work while she clicks the heels of her ruby red slippers together; no balloon ride for her! She wakens as from a dream and finds herself at home, among her loved ones.
Such is the allure of the Emerald City, but no match for the allure of home. It cannot replace the thousands of other places that Americans call “home.” Yes, Dear One, Jen, there’s no place like home. Home is where one’s “people” are. That being so, the real question becomes who one’s people are, and the where can become secondary. That’s more the truth among us Americans wherever we land in the world. Or, as is the case, wherever the peoples of the world land among us! At the end of it all, we are all sojourners in far countries. We may not actually be far from home, for even our home can be for someone else a foreign land, a far country.
In reflection on Jim and Cathy’s experiences lately, I have been reminded that our own communities hold and keep great distances between individuals. Economic status, religious groupings, social identity, ethnicity, in-group traditions and settled attitudes make it seem as though our neighbors live great distances apart from us, and we from them. There are all kinds of distances. Some of them we should be impatient to do away with; it should not be that way among all us locals. These kinds of things make it hard to feel right at home. What could be more important than that?