The Politics Of Frodo Baggins
From the “Tomatoes Are No Substitute For Politics” thread, this Evans-Manning-worthy comment from Grey Pilgrim:
@Eric K. – Do you tend to the Shire and ignore the larger world or leave the security of your home to confront what threatens it?
The tragic point made in the book and downplayed somewhat in the movie was that Frodo could not have both. In going to confront the danger he saved the Shire for others but effectively destroyed it for himself. He was wounded so deeply by his encounters that the familiar comforts of the old, settled life no longer had the capacity to heal him. He became an alien in his own community and had to abandon it altogether in order to find some measure of rest. This is what it means to say ‘you can’t go home again’ – sometimes our encounter with the world beyond our borders forever alters us in ways we would not have chosen, and often not to our liking.
Also, a major theme throughout the book is the power of the Enemy being overcome by the weakness of the hobbits, which is of course very resonant of the Gospel. The temptation in the world of politics is to meet and overcome power with more power, and therefore, to my mind at least, represents a greater danger than the temptation of the garden.
There are rabbis that teach that each man is an ‘olam katan’, a little world, and that everything in the universe corresponds to something within man. To understand it another way, the world around us is directly affected by the world within us. To put it yet another way, to change the world around you, change the world within you. It is much easier to change the world around us for the worse than it is to change the world within us for the better, and until the world within us is better the world around us will be in bad shape. Because of this, politics is often a terrible way to fix things and often a great way to destroy things, because we ourselves do not truly understand what is good. Tending the ‘inner’ garden, attending to our church, our children, our communities, etc teaches us what is good. When the inner world is transformed the outer world will follow suit. An empire can overcome any political movement, but it cannot overcome even a single saint, and so the greater power to change the world lies within us.
So to my mind, entering into a political field that is so polarized and characterized by intense reviling of the other side and where the temptation is to utilize power sought and won at any price to stick it to your opponents (especially since the last time round they stuck it to you when they had the chance), is a toxic place for any sane person to be. You may not recognize yourself after the encounter, and should weigh that cost before engaging.
I realize that this is a (mostly) religious point of view and therefore may not relate to everyone, but this is where I find myself – tending my garden and hoping for a New Jerusalem.