The Difference Between Patriotism and Fanaticism

In 1933, the Nazi party under Adolf Hitler pushed a number of legislative measures through the Reichstag. The legislation is collectively known as Gleichschaltung and it effectively marked the end of the Weimar Republic and the beginning of Hitler’s Third Reich.

What is important about the Gleichschaltung is that the legislation did not make any kind of constitutional changes. What it did was give Hitler the authority to act outside the bounds of the Weimar constitution. Through the Gleichschaltung, the Nazis could effectively sidestep anything that prohibited their complete control of the nation.

Never forget that Adolf Hitler was elected to the office of Chancellor (Reichskanzler) and came to that office legally. The passing of the Gleichschaltung culminated in Hitler merging his office with that of the president (Reichspräsident). Once his Nazi party had control of the government and the army by the end of 1934, there was not much anyone could do.

And from what we observe in history, not many people were willing to do much of anything anyway. Hitler leveraged patriotism to create fanaticism, and in that fanaticism, he gained influence that was so deep that the people of the Third Reich died in the millions to expand and defend his regime.

There is a narrow line between patriotism and fanaticism, between valuing your homeland and forcing that value on others, whether they like it or not.

The biggest difference is simple – the value you place on others’ freedom. Patriotism celebrates your nation because your nation protects people. Fanaticism wishes to enforce your own version of freedom on others.

I will leave you to discuss what it means to value others’ freedom.

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