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Patriotic fiction

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I am not a patriot in the usual sense of the term. Humanity and the world are generally more important to me than my own country and people per se. I'm in favor of a lot of the things that America represents to me, but opposed to a lot of others. It would take a lot to make me actively want to go out and fight for my country.

But I occasionally encounter works that I find stirringly patriotic; that make me feel, as their characters feel, a love of land and nation and home strong enough to want to fight for the place's freedom and safety. . . . Throughout this entry, I keep talking in terms of fighting; that doesn't mean that patriotism must necessarily involve violence, but all the examples I can think of of works that inspire me to patriotism involve people fighting and possibly dying for their country.

Here are a few such works:

  • Tigana. I'm still not done reading it, but much of the book focuses on characters infused with a compelling patriotic fervor. It makes me care not only about the characters, but about the fate of their land.
  • Naomi Kritzer's SH story "Comrade Grandmother," about a Soviet worker who enlists supernatural help against the German army in WWII.
  • The St. Crispen's Day Speech from Henry V, especially as performed by Kenneth Branagh in his 1989 film version.

I'm tempted to include the song "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" from Cabaret, but in that case it was more that the song was so joyous it made me want to stand up and join in on it, rather than that I actually found it patriotically moving per se. (Though that's a subtle and possibility arbitrary distinction.) And parts of a couple of Churchill's speeches (such as "The Few," "We Shall Fight on the Beaches," and "Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat") are moving and inspiring masterpieces of rhetoric, but I'm not sure they quite count either (and they're not fiction, of course).

We've also got another story coming up at SH in a couple months that very much engaged my patriotism (for England in this case).

As is probably obvious from my examples, when this kind of thing works for me it's not generally because I'm already predisposed to feel attached to the land in question. I think in some cases, what's going on is that I like charismatic characters who are passionate about something, and that makes me care about what those characters care about. In other cases, it's just that a character or writer or performer or even politician is so good at rhetoric that I'm moved by their words. And in some cases, I think the words and/or actions tap into my romantic side, the parts of me that believe in Honor and Heroic Sacrifice and Fighting For Freedom and such.

So now I'm curious. What moves you to patriotism, whether for a real place or an imaginary (or historical) one? I'm not talking about the kind of patriotism where you (for example) believe in the ideal of free speech and therefore use it to question what the government is doing; that's the kind of patriotism I strongly intellectually believe in, but it doesn't exactly inspire me in the way I'm talking about. What works of fiction--or, if you prefer, what real-life speeches or events--inspire you to want to go out and fight for your (or another's) country, whether or not you intellectually agree with the cause in question?

3 Comments

Babylon 5 springs to mind, for some of its major plot elements. Also The Twelve Kingdoms, a Japanese animé series which contains amazing character studies on people who have been and might become leaders.


Maybe that's why I find Dune so stirring, the book, not the movie. Think of the scene where they watch the water drip into the cistern. They have a vision for a better planet for their grandchildren. They get caught in someone else's political battles, but their cause is so just and noble.

The scene in Casablanca where they play La Marseillaise and everyone stands up and sings.


For me...the obviously cynical...patriotic fervor should always result in the payoff...the punishment of the patriotic characters by the government that owes them so much! Ahh the final truth...no good deed goes unpunished and naivete is it's own and only reward.


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