Donald Trump as Saruman

Christopher Lee as Saruman


In case you had any remaining doubts, the GOP-led Intelligence Committee has concluded that, yes, Russia did in fact intervene in the 2016 election to help elect Donald Trump and defeat Hillary Clinton. This hasn’t prevented Republican senators from taking a July 4th fan visit to Russia, however, nor Trump from planning a summit. Experts predict that he will continue giving Vladimir Putin everything he wants: Crimea, Syria, a crippled NATO, a crippled EU, an end to U.S. sanctions, and an end to American hegemony.

Trump increasingly sounds like Saruman.

Saruman starts off as the head of the White Council, made up of the good wizards who are supposed to check Sauron and his ambitions. Just as Trump sees more advantage in working with Putin than with America’s democratic allies, however, Saruman thinks he can work an alliance with Sauron to his advantage. Gandalf reports that he’s willing to sell out the elves and the men of Numenor (Aragon and his men) in the process:

He drew himself up then and began to declaim, as if he were making a speech long rehearsed. “The Elder Days are gone. The Middle Days are passing. The Younger Days are beginning. The time of the Elves is over, but our time is at hand: the world of Men, which we must rule. But we must have power, power to order all things as we will, for that good which only the Wise can see.

“And listen, Gandalf, my old friend and helper! ” he said, coming near and speaking now in a softer voice. “I said we, for we it may be, if you will join with me. A new Power is rising. Against it the old allies and policies will not avail us at all. There is no hope left in Elves or dying Númenor. This then is one choice before you. before us. We may join with that Power. It would be wise, Gandalf. There is hope that way. Its victory is at hand; and there will be rich reward for those that aided it. As the Power grows, its proved friends will also grow; and the Wise, such as you and I, may with patience come at last to direct its courses, to control it. We can bide our time, we can keep our thoughts in our hearts, deploring maybe evils done by the way, but approving the high and ultimate purpose: Knowledge, Rule, Order; all the things that we have so far striven in vain to accomplish, hindered rather than helped by our weak or idle friends. There need not be, there would not be, any real change in our designs, only in our means.”

The phrase “weak or idle friends” sounds a lot like how Trump has been describing NATO recently, and Canada and Mexico as well. If you’re interested only in superior power, then complex negotiations with democratic allies is for losers.

Gandalf proves to be a tougher sell than the GOP, however:

 “Saruman,” I said, “I have heard speeches of this kind before, but only in the mouths of emissaries sent from Mordor to deceive the ignorant. I cannot think that you brought me so far only to weary my ears.”

Trump knows that he holds a trump card of sorts in America’s military might. Why not deal only with the big boys, men who think like he does, and shrug off the rest? Saruman lusts for such power and sees it in the ring:

“If we could command that, then the Power would pass to us. That is in truth why I brought you here. For I have many eyes in my service, and I believe that you know where this precious thing now lies. Is it not so? Or why do the Nine ask for the Shire, and what is your business there?” As he said this a lust which he could not conceal shone suddenly in his eyes.

To make our circle complete, the atom bomb may have entered into Tolkien’s meditations on the corrupting nature of absolute power as he wrote Lord of the Rings. That such power hollows out the soul doesn’t make Trump lust for it any the less.

In the end, those whose time is supposedly coming to an end succeed in bringing down both Saruman and Sauron. Think of Hobbits as the everyday citizens participating in the Resistance. Because they are willing to trek to Mount Doom and stand up for what is right, they have a moment of triumph:

“Stand, Men of the West! Stand and wait! This is the hour of doom.”

And even as [Gandalf] spoke the earth rocked beneath their feet. Then rising swiftly up, far above the Towers of the Black Gate, high above the mountains, a vast soaring darkness sprang into the sky, flickering with fire. The earth groaned and quaked. The Towers of the Teeth swayed, tottered, and fell down; the mighty rampart crumbled; the Black Gate was hurled in ruin; and from far away, now dim, now growing, now mounting to the clouds, there came a drumming rumble, a roar, a long echoing roll of ruinous noise.

‘The realm of Sauron is ended!’ said Gandalf. ‘The Ring-bearer has fulfilled his Quest.’ And as the Captains gazed south to the Land of Mordor, it seemed to them that, black against the pall of cloud, there rose a huge shape of shadow, impenetrable, lightning-crowned, filling all the sky. Enormous it reared above the world, and stretched out towards them a vast threatening hand, terrible but impotent: for even as it leaned over them, a great wind took it, and it was all blown away, and passed; and then a hush fell.

The Captains bowed their heads; and when they looked up again, behold! their enemies were flying and the power of Mordor was scattering like dust in the wind. As when death smites the swollen brooding thing that inhabits their crawling hill and holds them all in sway, ants will wander witless and purposeless and then feebly die, so the creatures of Sauron, orc or troll or beast spell-enslaved, ran hither and thither mindless; and some slew themselves, or cast themselves in pits, or fled wailing back to hide in holes and dark lightless places far from hope.

I’m not predicting that Trumpism will collapse so completely, and even in the novel Saruman finds ways to do further damage to the Shire. Written in the wake of fascism’s defeat, however, Tolkien’s novel is a reminder that allies can come together to defeat formidable foes.

Know hope.

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