A friend gave me the Lord of the Rings trilogy on DVD this past Christmas, and I finally got around to watching them the other day. Since I hadn’t seen the series in a few years, I’d forgotten just how magnificent the movies really are. Before their release, I had been openly skeptical that anyone could do justice to Tolkien’s marvelous trilogy, but director Peter Jackson and his cast and crew did it; they hit a grand slam.
As I watched the movies, I was struck by the timeless and universal themes woven into Tolkien’s tale. Power, and the seductive pull it exerts on the human psyche, is at the heart of the human experience and at the root of most of our tragedies.
By the time the final credits rolled, I got a sinking feeling that many of the movie’s characters and plot themes were being repeated all around us in a tragic example of life imitating art.
With several ongoing wars, an economy in peril, and a farcical electoral season upon us, the pursuit of power is the narrative of the day, and our cast of characters is veritably Tolkienesque.
Here, then, are my nominations for our very own Americanized version of The Lord of the Rings:
Saruman the White: Alan Greenspan
Alan Greenspan was once a white wizard of libertarianism. He preached the gospel of individual liberty and free market economics all over the world. For years, he collaborated with Ayn Rand, and he even wrote an eloquent paean on the virtues of the gold standard.
But as the years passed, he ensconced himself high atop the Fed Tower in Washington and hungrily stared into Sauron’s crystal ball. Seduced by the dark side, he sent forth swarms of counterfeit dollars, more destructive than any horde of uruk-hai, to obliterate our economy and wreck the livelihood of our people.
Frodo Baggins: Ron Paul
Long ago, America had rulers who respected our constitution and actually believed that there should be reasonable limits to the federal government’s power. During that time, the nation prospered and the people lived in peace. But when our Founders’ line disappeared, a succession of power-mongering con artists took over. Now, we teeter on the edge of bankruptcy in an age of intrusive government and ceaseless warfare. Ron Paul, a diminutive, humble man from a shire somewhere in Texas, seeks to take the One Ring and hurl it into the fires of Mount Doom. While there is always hope, his is a long and difficult journey, and his chances of success are slim.
Sméagol: Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton had the One Ring for eight long years. She reveled in its power and glory until it was taken away by George W. Bush. Ever since then, she’s been trolling around the countryside in a desperate quest to get it back. (Rumor has it that she goes to bed at night caressing a miniature copy of the Presidential Seal while mumbling "my precious.")
Sauron: Alexander Hamilton
There are many candidates for the role of Sauron in this American morality play, but after some deep thought I believe the dubious distinction belongs to Alexander Hamilton. In many ways, he was the weasel in the Founders’ woodpile, the serpent in the Garden of Eden. While the other Founders were envisioning a radical new republic based on individual liberty and limited government, Hamilton worked tirelessly to fashion something very different. He believed in an omnipotent central government, an activist foreign policy, a powerful standing military and the benevolent effects of central banking. (One government to rule them all…and in the darkness, bind them). Though Hamilton has long since passed from the physical world, his fiery eye still hovers over Mordor-on-the-Potomac, a mortal threat to the remnants of our republic.
Gandalf the Gray: Lew Rockwell
Lew Rockwell, following in the footsteps of Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard, has walked the earth these past decades warning of the coming tempest. He has organized a small band of partisans and sent them forth to save Middle America from the evil hordes of Mordor.
Grima Wormtongue: Dick Cheney
In Lord of the Rings, Grima is the archetypical court manipulator. An inveterate liar and flatterer, he works his wiles on the hapless King Theoden to deliver Rohan into Saruman’s clutches.
Dick Cheney plies a similar trade in the White House, where he whispers his dark plots into the ear of our imbecilic president and moves his agenda of war and state capitalism inexorably forward.
The Dead Army of Dunharrow: The American People
Many years ago, these soldiers, also called the Shadow Host, pledged their lives in defense of Gondor. But at a crucial moment they betrayed their oaths. Instead, they fled into the caverns below Dwimorberg Mountain where they were condemned to a living death until the day they should somehow regain their honor.
The American people, likewise, were bequeathed a free republic courtesy of the sweat and blood of their forefathers. Through the years, that republic has come under relentless assault from those who would replace it with a militarized, authoritarian empire. And rather than fulfill their oath to defend that republic, the masses of the American people have retreated into a sheep-like, narcotized state of willful ignorance and indifference.
It remains to be seen whether some Aragon will appear and shame them into recapturing their birthright. But America may not be as lucky as the denizens of Middle Earth.
From what I’ve been seeing on the campaign trail this year, Sauron is coasting to victory.