From Superhero Babylon: Patriotic hero and its downside

Landon Erp's picture
Submitted by Landon Erp on Sun, 2008-10-05 04:31

The patriotic hero is an archetype which first showed up around WWII largely in reference to the fact that many Jewish immigrants were projecting the values of their adopted nation as an opposite to the forces which they had been fleeing eleswhere. What makes this hero archetype different is that there is little to no focus on revenge like many other hero archtypes. The hero isn't fighting against something to avenge a lost value, he is fighting for something which he values and still has or will have.

A few better known examples are

Captain America
Liberty Belle
The Sheild
The American
About a dozen characters named Patriot
Super Patriot
The Fighting Yank
Uncle Sam

The patriotic hero sees his nation as a value and drapes himself in the colors of his flag and tries to defend his values. This of course leaves itself open to the corruption of the concept of nationalism. While it can be said that great patriotic heroes can be an inspiration when they have good values, someone like Captain America, what can be said of valuing your country simply because you happened to be born there.

Few would argue the virtue of Captain America, and fewer still would argue the evil of Captain Nazi, The Red Skull, or The Soviet Supersoldiers.

There's a lot to be said for life liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but what about crushing the bourgeoisie under a red boot for the workers? Or a final solution to the "Jewish problem" for the German Volk? Or keeping your women subjugated and and bringing Jihad to the infidel for Allah?

Unchosen values are anathema to the flourishing of human life ironically this is why American themed heroes work (and to a lesser degree British themed ones). America was a nation founded on chosen values, only by those who chose to seek them out. The character or values of a nation are neither intrinsically bad or good simply because you were born there. Treating them as if they were is the only surefire way to ALWAYS put heroism in service of evil values.

There is a scene which drives this point home hard in the graphic novel Kingdom Come where a man wearing the stars and stripes attacks a group of immigrants at Ellis Island refuting the statmenet about "Poor tired huddled masses, yearning to breathe free." More disturbing is the real world equivalent that can be seen in any person who's ever turned the sacred values which our nation is founded upon into meaningless buzzwords.

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