On my 24th birthday, I received a gift which, little did I know would change my life. My friend Matt gave me a book. Now, at the time, I was not to thrilled with receiving a book for my birthday. I wanted money or a gift certificate or something, other than a book. I was not, what one might call, an avid reader. So I thanked him for the book and put it on my shelf, which at that point consisted of cardboard boxes sitting on their sides. After several months and cable being turned off on me, I decided I would start reading. Not having a lot to choose from and not knowing what kind of book I might want to read, I picked up the novel Matt had given me several months before. By the end of the first chapter I was hooked. To say I devoured that work of literature is an understatement. I almost could not put it down. I fell asleep reading and yes, I even brought it work to read when I had down time. When I arrived at the conclusion, I was speechless. I could not believe how wonderful this novel was. Nor could I believe the world of thinking it opened up to me.
Growing up, I had always been a fan of the The Wizard of Oz. Yet, I had never read the book. I was only familiar with the movie. The one thing that scared me most of all about the movie was The Wicked Witch of the West. Whenever she would appear on-screen, I would run and hide. I even remember a few times crying because she scared me so much. As I grew older, I began to wonder about the witch when watching the movie. What caused her to become so evil? Why did she hate so much? What could have happened in her life to make her the way she was? The book that I was given on my 24th birthday was Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. Not only were all of my questions about the witch answered, I was exposed to something of which I hadn’t thought of before. Those who appear evil or bad may not be. It’s perception which dictates what people believe of another person. In other words, if someone has a great public relations officer, he or she, no matter how deplorable the reputation, could end up looking like a saint. The Wicked Witch, unfortunately for her, did not have a very good public relations team. Actually, she did not have one at all. But, I digress.
If you are not familiar with Gregory Maguire’s novel about The Wicked Witch, I strongly urge you to pick it up and give it a read. However, plugging Maguire’s book is not the sole point of this posting. Yesterday afternoon, as I was trolling Facebook (which I do constantly) I noticed Gregory Maguire had posted something which caught my eye. A fourth book in the Wicked series will be released in November. To say I am excited is putting it mildly. There is something magical about Maguire’s series. But, it all started with Wicked! Not only does the book tell the story of our fable witch, it introduces us to all of the characters from L. Frank Baum’s original work, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The audience finally sees where all of these characters come from and where they originated from. More importantly, we see why the witch becomes wicked. If that’s what you want to call it. Through this book, I began to question much of the status-quo. When I would watch the news at night I would start asking myself questions which network news usually never answers.
One night, there was a story about the PLO. Most people know this as a terrorist organization responsible for hundreds of attacks on innocent people. But, my question is why? Are they all bad people? I would venture to say no. Their methods are deplorable, but they are fighting for their independence. They see their enemy as Israel. Whereas Israel sees them as their enemy. Just as the founders of the modern state of Israel had to fight for their land in the 1940’s, the PLO is doing the same. We are just shown one side of the story. Most of the time, we are not shown the people who have been displaced because of new settlements. I must make this very clear; I am not, nor will I ever condone the actions of terrorist organizations. Nor, do I support the PLO. However, I do support peace in the region. I use this example because we are so often quick to judge the actions of other as either good or bad; heroic or cowardice. Yet, many times there is much more background needed in order to see the whole story. This is what Wicked taught me.
I refuse to divulge the plot of the book here, but let me say that what you once thought could be turned around and leave you scratching your head. This is where public relations comes in. In the book, Those in highest power had the best public relations advisers. They were able to spread their message of hate throughout the land of Oz. Not unlike today in our country or other countries around the world. Before we go to war with or declare a ruler of another country evil; it is important for us, as a people, to look at the whole story and judge very carefully if what we are doing is just and right. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. There are a couple of certainties I know in this world: First, I will die. We all die. Dying is part of life. Second, Adolf Hitler was the single most vile disgusting man ever to walk the face of the earth. Third, it does not matter how hard one tries, there are always going to be people who let you down and you let down. Those are my certainties. Everything else, thanks to that amazing book is up for debate.