By Richard Hurley


My immersion in the history of WWI is beginning to pay off. When I was recently asked a question on Quora (an international writers’ forum): “Why do you think that Trump has chosen this time in his presidency to announce that he is a Nationalist?” I found the answer on the tip of my tongue:

No doubt Trump was inspired by the recent observation of the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I. Those wonderful 1914–1918 years were certainly a golden era of nationalism. Who wouldn’t want to bring them back?

Think about it. A Serbian nationalist got to shoot an Austrian archduke. Pan-Slavic nationalists successfully lobbied the Tsar to shield the Serbs from Austrian revenge. German nationalists got to rush to the defense of their Austrian brothers. French nationalists leapt at the chance to avenge their humiliating 1870 defeat at the hands of Prussia.

Admittedly, Belgian nationalists didn’t fare so well. They didn’t get to attack anybody and stood in the way of the German nationalists who wanted to thrash French nationalists…but that’s nationalism for you. It has its ups and downs. Britain, alas, suffered horribly because she wasn’t selfish enough to watch little Belgium go down the tubes. On the upside, British nationalists didn’t have to miss out on all the nationalist fun.

And let us not overlook the Italian nationalists! After remaining boringly neutral for a few years, Italy’s premier reminded his people of the “sacro egoismo” that lies at the heart of all nationalism. So off the Italians went to die by the 100s of thousands on the frozen slopes of the Dolomites.

Altogether, nationalists throughout Europe had a wonderful time in the greatest celebration of nationalism ever held. I can certainly see why a keen student of history like Donald Trump would be inspired by their example.

Note: Historian Richard Hurley, Steve Hurley’s brother, recently designed the exhibit, Wake Up, America!Nevada County’s Experience of the First World War, currently on display in the lobby of the Rood Center. JF

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