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One hundred years ago, the end of World War I was declared on a railroad carriage. On the occasion of the event, political leaders met in Paris to celebrate cooperation and unification.
But are the countries of the Western world really as unified through the European Union, the United Nations, or other international governmental organizations as they claim to be?
Actions of some political leaders show something different.
Whereas the French President Emmanuel Macron and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised the cooperation of countries, the President of the United States Donald Trump decided to not be a part of the ceremony and instead talk at an American military cemetery outside of Paris.
President Macron welcomed the other leaders with “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism.” He also stated that “Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism by saying: ‘Our interest first. Who cares about the others?’”
The last sentence sounds common and could be one person’s in particular—Donald Trump. His probably most heard message is “Make America Great Again,” and it fits in President Trump’s decision to be a nationalist. However, it is opposed to President Macron’s statement of rather being a patriot than a nationalist.
The world we used to know with similar political systems and beliefs is changing. Since World War II people feared the word “nationalism” due to the Nazis’ brutal impact. However, recent developments in several different countries show that nationalistic ideas appeal to many people.
Citizens of Poland, Hungary, and Austria have elected right wing parties. Germany faces the increase of citizen support for the party “Alternative für Deutschland”—a right wing party that has ideas which can be compared in some terms to Germany in the late 1930s.
The ceremonies around the 100-year anniversary of the end of World War I were meant to show unification. Many leaders from countries like Spain, Israel, Turkey, Ukraine, and others showed up to stand together. However, the British Prime Minister Theresa May was absent. This relates to the Brexit and Great Britain’s process of leaving the European Union.
Current actions question the solidarity of especially the Western countries. Nationalism is rising, and many people prefer to only think about their own benefits and not the bigger picture.
It is hard to tell what will happen. President Macron said, “What is uncertain for the future is how this image will be interpreted,” with image referring to history. “Will it be a rising symbol of a durable peace among nations or the photograph of the last moment of unity before the world goes down in new disorder?” Either the countries will overcome their selfishness and nationalism, or the population faces a new world war.
The world and its people have reached another critical point in history, where it can turn into a positive or negative direction. One event can make a difference. History has shown that, and one prime example is the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian Archduke in 1914 which led to the First World War.
It is up to us now to decide and influence which way humanity will take.