There are very few true villains out there. Few people do evil, knowing it’s evil, because it’s evil. While it makes for compelling fantasy, the truth is always far more complex.
Most people think they are doing the right thing. The tea-partiers, the Fox News folks, Osama bin-Laden, dictators and war-mongers, they think their ideas are what the world needs. They believe they have the right idea, and that their ends will justify their means. Holy wars, crusades, ethnic cleansings, and on and on and on in a list of atrocities and horrors, nearly all waged in the name of making the world a better place according to one person or one shared idea.
I had a hard time writing about Blythe, my book’s antagonist. Because Lunatic Fringe is a fantasy novel (specifically, a paranormal romance), I was inclined to write Lord of the Rings-like stakes: pure good and pure evil going head to head with all the powers of the universe vying on their behalf. It’s compelling, it’s sexy, and it’s easy to know who to root for. But it didn’t feel very honest.
Blythe isn’t an evil person. She believes what she’s doing is the right thing. Her ultimate sin is that she is an ideologue, and she ties her ego into her philosophies. And, problematically, she uses her ideals to hurt people. Conveying this without thoroughly vilifying her was a difficult task. I hope I did it well, and certainly I’ll be getting better as it as I write more.
Listening to Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity, having conversations with well-meaning straight men, un-friending guys that I met at bars who support Arizona’s racist law, all remind me that most people really want to do good in this world. Some of them think that looks like lowering taxes, some of them think it looks like supporting socialized medicine, some think it’s destroying capitalist monoliths, and some by sending money to an African kid they’ll never meet. I think I have some of the right answer, and you probably do, too.
The point is, we all care. Few of us actively want the world to go to Hell. The rest of us work hard to vote for the “right” politicians, or to raise money for the “right” causes. It’s helpful for life, and for literature, to realize that we’re all doing the best we know how.