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In the Shadow of the Wizard of Oz: Home Sweet Home

The Classic American Song Should Become Our New National Anthem

by Danny Schechter

What is one of the oldest popular songs in America? Hint: it's been sung, believe it or not, for 123 years. Yet, it's not one you are likely to hear on American Idol or MTV. There's even a Japanese version called "Hanyu no Yado" ("A Lodging").

Can you guess? Give up? Try "Home Sweet Home."

"HSH" could become the anthem of the presidential campaign with candidates wearing American Home pins, not flags pandering to patriotism. The home is the heart and the hearth of America, and this song is its clarion cry, especially now that so many American families have already lost theirs or are about to, thanks to the wave of foreclosures now mightier than that now overpriced "wave of amber grain."

Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,

Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home;

The song was adapted from the 1823 opera Clari, Maid of Milan, with the song's melody composed by an Englishman, Sir Henry Bishop with lyrics by American actor and dramatist John Howard Payne. Payne may be more properly spelled pain these days as the housing market gets worse and real estate brokers encourage what buyers there are to become vultures, and profit on misery by buying repossessed homes for far less than they're worth. What a smarmy bargain!

A charm from the skies

Seems to hallow us there,

Which seek thro' the world,

Is ne'er met with elsewhere.

Home, home, sweet sweet home,

You heard this song in TV shows and even in the Wizard Of Oz. At the end of the movie, the melody plays in the underscore as Dorothy repeats the phrase that transports her back to Kansas.

Read Ellen Hodgson Brown's excellent "The Web Of Debt," and you will learn that the Wizard of Oz is a fairytale about banking and finance. The book quotes a study by Professor Tim Zialukas:

"The Wizard of Oz...was written at a time when American society was consumed by the debate over the 'financial question,' that is the creation and circulation of money...The characters of the "Wizard of Oz" represented those deeply involved in the debate: The Scarecrow as the farmers; The Tin Woodman as the industrial workers; The Lion as silver advocate is William Jennings Bryant and Dorothy as the archetypal American girl."

This metaphor was actually patterned after a march on Washington led by Jacob Coxey, a part of a populist movement fighting for economic justice and against debt. According to Brown, "The Wizard of Oz" came to embody the American dream.

And so did the idea of home ownership, which is rapidly disappearing in the aftermath of the Wall Street meltdown, a man-made 50-State Katrina.

"Home Sweet Home" has a new relevance with over three million American families facing foreclosure, and so many other homeowners and renters under stress. Ironically, they are not all poor, and some even live in the Hamptons where John Howard Payne once resided in what's known there as the "Home Sweet Home" House.

Leave it to London's Telegraph, not an American paper, to tell us what's even happening in our own country:

The American housing crisis that sparked a worldwide credit crunch has reached the Hamptons, the traditional summer playground for New York's moneyed classes and holidaying celebrities.

Even in one of the country's most affluent enclaves, a new word has entered the lexicon -- foreclosure, the American equivalent of repossession.

Not only have at least 10 properties, including a $15 million (£7.6 million) mansion, been foreclosed outright, but banks have also launched default proceedings against another 120 home owners in the first three months of this year in the popular beach towns of East Hampton and Southampton.

More than 250 borrowers, many owning homes worth more than $1 million, have fallen behind on their mortgage payments and set off alerts with credit companies.

Yes, even some of the greedy are hurting but not as much as the needy, according to this report from a Connecticut newspaper:

When a 70-year-old Bridgeport man returned to the third-floor apartment that had been his home for nearly two decades, the rental unit was locked and boarded up. In Connecticut, 56 percent of foreclosed housing units are within multiunit complexes where renters are vulnerable to eviction.

His landlord had been foreclosed on. The blindsided renter was collateral damage.

Attorney Richard Tenenbaum of Connecticut Legal Services declined to name his dispossessed client but said similar incidents are being played out nearly every day in Connecticut.

'There are dozens, probably hundreds, of people being victimized because they don't know what's going on,' Tenenbaum said. 'The number of evictions caused by foreclosures has probably doubled, at least, in the past few months.'

While the political debate about the foreclosure crisis has spotlighted the struggles of single-family homeowners who can't keep up with their mortgage payments, it has rarely touched on the plight of the renter.

This is a problem that you or your neighbors next door may soon be confronting. Shamefullly, so far, despite all the hand-wringing, the Senate and the House have yet to enact relief.

What about the White House which enabled the subcrime scandal and earlier did such a good job reviving New Orleans?

Fergetaboutit!

Rockers like Motley Crue who have their own version of the song may learn that the home that they want to return to is long gone.

I'm on my way

I'm on my way

Home sweet home

Tonight, tonight

I'm on my way

I'm on my way

Home sweet home

Ask yourself: where are WE on our way to, where is our country headed?

"We're not in Kansas," that's for sure.

As you look at the wreckage from this non-stop tornado of indifference and inaction, as the crisis gets deeper and the responses get shallower, as more of our neighbors find themselves living in the streets or in their cars, at least we have a song to sing and a dream to remember about the country that once was.

There's no place like home,

There's no place like home.

Think also, as we move into an unrecognized state of national urgency, of the great Wizard of Oz who offered advice that we finally have to understand and reject, "pay no attention to that man behind the curtain."

News Dissector Danny Schechter edits Mediachannel.org. He directed IN DEBT WE TRUST (indebtwetrust.org) and is finishing PLUNDER, a new expose of the economic crisis. Comments to dissector@mediachannel.org

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