The Shire (Brandywine Network) – Amid a scene of treeless devastation, tangled waggon-pieces, tarred sheds, and a political intrigue, Frodo Baggins and his band of political malcontents have arrived in the Shire. After a long and protracted occupation of Mordor, and the loss of thousands of elves, dwarves, and men from the Western landsespecially Gondorese and Rohirrimthese onetime members of the Fellowship of the Ring have returned home not to peace, but to more struggle.
Apparently being beset by bandits did not trouble Baggins. “He said that were to be expected, in a time so harsh as this one, right after the war and all,” claimed recently freed political dissident Fredegar Bolger. “He said crooks like these bubble up in bad times, and the good usually don’t see them for what they are till too late. And you know, I think half the Shire is actually still conviced old Sharkey and his lot are doing us good!”
But commentators unanimously agree that Baggins almost certainly has his sights set on the local ruler, commonly known as Sharkey.
“I do not fear Baggins,” commented Sharkey, also known as Saruman, a colleague of Mordor’s tyrant Sauron. But off the record, a number of his underlings commented that preparations were being made to prepare for the arrival of Baggins and his band of soldiers. “They’re troublemakers, and there’s only one thing to do with that sort, which is to lock ’em up in a lockhole forever.” When asked about trials for the Baggins, the underlings seemed surprised and amused that the idea could be considered for people they considered “friends of terrorists”. “Under my guidance,” the Shirriff added, “the Shire is prospering! There are many new jobs at Sandyman Millery now, for example, which we help set up! The economy is in great shape. Trust me.”
But many are heartened by the arrival of Hobbits. The Elder Patriarch Brandybuck saw the returnees, already battle-hardened, as the hope of the Shire. “I had forgotten a time when our Chief hadn’t treated us so! We’re not allowed to meet in groups! If we criticize him, we can be questioned and locked away! We can’t even complain when he makes a mistake! I hope Bilbo and Sam and Merry and Pippin give him what-for!”
Interviewed via scry, Frodo seemed somber. “You know, it’s ironic, having traveled into Mordor with the One True Ring. I mean, Sauron wanted it, but I had it. I could have been as bad as Sauron, if I had it too long. We said he was the Lord of the Rings, but he didn’t have anything. I found no rings in Mordor save the one I brought there myself. There were no Rings of Mass Destruction. Sauron’s reach didn’t even extend to his borders. It makes me wonder what there was in Mordor that Gandalf wanted for himself, perhaps some other source of power or profit to fuel his schemes?”
Asked for a comment on the situation in the Shire, Sam Gamgee said simply, “This is worse than Mordor! Much worse, in a way.” Pressed for his opinion, Baggins agreed, but very clearly blamed Saruman and Mordor for the current mess in the Shire, an evaluation some question. (His uncle Bilbo was not available for comment.)
But others blame the Baggins family for the fate of the Shire. Farmer Cotton angrily regards the Bagginses as being partly to blame: “It was Lotho Baggins who bought up all the land here, and looked to own the whole Shire. It was Lotho Baggins who first brought men into the Shire, to protect his lands for himself alone… even knowing the connections the Bagginses have with those who deal in Rings of Mass Destruction! And we sat by and let them bring the eye of Sauron, of Saruman, of Gandalf upon us! So who can we blame for this devastation?” Lotho Sackville-Baggins, who died in captivity, was major land developer in the region and a relative of Frodo Baggins.
Bettnet.com’s Minas Tirith parody was supposed to make you laugh when you realized that what he was writing about was really Iraq.
Well, there’s something to be said for an amusing application of a popular entertainment-genre meme to big news, however misguided it is. (Frankly, Tolkien’s war is a little silly. If he were to tell the real story of the War with the Orcs and Dark Forces of Mordor, I should think that he would have to spend another five volumes discussing the Occupation of Mordor; he’d have to tell the story of common soldiers and experts hunting down the leaders of the orcish press-gangs that forced common orcs into the Mordor army, hanging Sauron’s lietenants, and trying to get the nation to chill out so it wouldn’t go to war again thirty years later, sans Sauron, on very different grounds. Especially considering that he wrote chunks of it during World War II, when he was seeing the results of not having sorted things out properly the first time, with his own son away in the trenches.
But okay, he chose to end his epic fantasy war quickly, and show that the other warthe war of corruptiongoes on even back in the most lovely, peaceful place in Middle-Earth: The Shire. Now, if you’ve not read the books, but only seen the films, you’re missing the best part of the story: the hobbits return home to find the Shire under the control of a few crooked, greedy hobbits with whom, yes, again, they must fight to wrest freedom.
Gee, I never did imagine the Bushistas as crooked, greedy hobbits, but they fit the bill, given the parody on Bettnet.
But the real reason I am posting this is to draw your attention to the comments section. If you are American and you read it, you will find no surprises. If you are a non-American and you read it, you’ll be sadly nodding your head in confirmation of what you already knew from online discussions: that these people are fundamentally distracted by the Right vs. Left football game and they can’t seem even to listen to one another for a minute without considering which team the speaker is playing for. The Right hearkens back always to the ostensible sins of the left under Clinton, and the Left foams at the mouth now, in a way they didn’t under Clinton.
What’s so amusing I suppose is that it reminds me of how all white people look pretty much the same to the Koreans I live among. American, Canadian, British, French; the variations are so small to the majority of people here as to be irrelevant. Most of the world views Bush as not only dangerous but ridiculous, regardless of which side of the political spectrum they tend toward. Leftists and Rightists outside of America simply cringe at the existence of that lunatic. (And let’s not even mention the fact that The Terminator and a WWF Wrestler got into public office. It’s too pathetic for words.) The fact that so much hot air is exchanged over what seems obvious to everyone outside of America is amusing, or is it sometime frightening? It’s both, I suppose, depending on how far you are from Bush’s next screw-up.
But I think it does illustrate how fundamentally a solid, two-party electoral system dumbs down politics and also how fundamentally depoliticising such a system is. Most of the discussion on that page, after all, is just people launching ad hominem attacks on people whom they perceive to be voters for the opposing party. If you remove all of that, you end up with little or nothing much in the way of intelligent discussion.