The Lord of the Rings is a story about power and its abuse. Sauron is the mythical antagonist from the J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic story who forged out of a mountain the “One Ring to rule them all.” Those who possessed it fed off the dark energy derived from the ring. Gandalf, the wizard, discovered that Bilbo Baggins had carried the most powerful ring in the history of the world for years. After his nephew Frodo had inherited the heirloom, he offered to give the ring to Gandalf, but the wizard rejected it because he knew that a being like himself would give into the tempting lure of the dark energy.
As we read Tolkien’s series, we are meant to celebrate his overarching theme, that those who wield power should not be those who desire power. In Rivendell Gandalf and Elrond chose the personage who would carry the ring to Mount Doom to destroy it. They ruled out the elves, dwarves, men, or wizards as candidates, for any individual of any of these Middle Earth races possessed too much lust for power to resist the temptation of the ring. Hobbits were the only creatures who tolerated the influence of the ring’s dark energy because they possessed little interest in power.
As I read this book series, I feel as though Tolkien is writing to Americans today. Our elected leaders are chosen because they nominated themselves to hold power. I often think that the greatest leaders would never win an election, for they would never be interested in the job. I sometimes ask myself, “How much ego do you have to have to run for President of the United States?”
Navajos traditionally nominated leaders based on humility. A council would find the person who least desired power and put them in charge. The U.S. government imposed a Western-style government on the Navajo Nation, and now they elect arrogant leaders just like in any other American election. Many Navajos still value humility, so it is not uncommon for a Navajo politician to joke, “Vote for me, because I am the humblest.”
We now have a President who lusts power more than any president that I have seen in my lifetime. Although he does not possess a ring of power, he possesses more money than any other President has ever owned. His own son stated, “He doesn’t see in black and white. He only sees in green.” In our society money is power, and he who controls the money controls our society’s politics. The President manifests his love for power by the way he dresses, talks, acts, spends money, and treats people. Many attribute President George Washington’s success to his humility, or to his loathing of power. His popularity allowed him unprecedented power, but he chose to retire after having served two terms so he could quietly disappear from the limelight.
Does America still value humility? Does the Lord of the Rings still resonate with modern Americans? Do we live in a post-democracy America? Would Americans prefer a plutocratic republic? I do not know the future of America, but I know that Tolkien taught an invaluable lesson on power and humility, and I pray that America can find a way to better wean power away from those who lust it, and hand it over to We the people. In other words, we need a hobbit for President.