Estimated Reading Time: 3.09 minutes.
"Several years ago, our world was transformed by the arrival of the mythic. Ancient beings beyond our imagination, control, and understanding. They came to us with cures for our illnesses, and promised us a better world. Since that day of revolution, Germany has presented, as so often before in our history, a heartbreaking picture of disunity. We have not received the promised equality and fraternity, and we have lost our liberty. The collapse of the spiritual unity at home was followed by the loss to our people of their political standing in the world."
XavLab, Chapter 7, Wake Up, and Smell the Ashes
The historically inclined will recognise that the above quote has been twisted to fit XavLab, but was actually once spoken by a real politician. We'll come back to that.
Patriotism has long been used to demonstrate charactures of evil, because the inherent risk of the patriot isn't hard to see. Blind faith, in anything, makes you dangerous. It makes you vulnerable to suggestion, and makes it easier for you to step passed your usual lines because you believe faultlessly in something greater than yourself.
Real patriotism is rarely so badly behaved as to make you two-dimensional.
The real patriot calls for unity, they call for peace. They call for a rational return to what it really means to be born into their nation. They are proud of many things, and ashamed of many more. For all intents and purposes, they're either generally just a normal person, or in the rare case, inspirational.
Almost every patriot sounds like they want to make a better world, because they truly believe in what they love.
The dangerous patriot doesn't tend to sound like a madman. They tend to sound like they belong at the front of a battlefield in a Hollywood movie, stirring the demoralised soldiers into one final attack, one final chance to do what needs to be done and save those they care about.
The quote that was modified for XavLab, above, sounds a lot like the various politicians of today, trying to unite their people in a trying time. However, the person who spoke it originally adds a wealth of context. Unfortunately they were, quite literally, Hitler.
In that same speech, Hitler says this:
The delusion that some are the conquerors and others the conquered destroys the trust between nations and thereby also destroys the world economy. But the misery of our people is terrible! The starving industrial proletariat have become unemployed in their millions, while the whole middle and artisan class have been made paupers.
Proclamation of the Reich Government to the German People (February 1, 1933), Adolf Hitler.
If you did not know the man, did not know his intent or what he would become, then you might find yourself nodding along to such a speech. That is the danger of a patriot. That he does know what hurts you, what disenfranchises you. He feels like someone who will fight alongside you. The patriot feels like a symbol of your own suffering.
Writing so often makes the patriot appear as some comical figure who will obviously become a villain. That is ridiculous. That cartoon vision of the patriot is only appropriate in a world of comical villains. It doesn't belong in writing that is supposed to feel grounded.
However, the patriot as a villain absolutely belongs in writing that is supposed to feel grounded. The patriot is insidious, and beyond dangerous, because they truly believe in what they are doing. They are a man for whom the ends will always justify the means. A man, whose actions are completely unconscionable, but whose thoughts are filled with justifications and logical fallacies that have led them to a path that should fill everyone with an existenstial terror simply because they will never stop, they will never be redeemed, because they simply believe that what they are doing is necessary.
When you come to write a villain for whom the reader should at first empathise, consider the patriot. The wolf in sheep's skin.