As a child, I was driven by a bull-headed faith in country and culture. I do not know how much of this was a consequence of a schooling without critical thought, and how much was a child’s will to reduce a complex, scary world to black-or-white. Perhaps I’ll never know. I do remember friendships singed in heated arguments by the back seat on my bus home. I remember flushed faces, and hands shaking with a mad rage. I’m not proud of who I was.
And yet it’s a similar passion for the abstract, for a structure to thought we call language, for tales of valour by men long turned to dust, sparking entire movements and wars. Afghan ‘nationalism’ brought the mighty U.S to her knees, and Balkan nationalists sparked a World War. While we’re on nationalists, meet
Gavrilo Princip- Yugoslav nationalist best remembered for his murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand precipitating the July Crisis of 1914, the subsequent invasion of Serbia and drumroll the First World War.
He was a farmer by trade.
The assassination of the Archduke almost reads like a movie- he rides into restive Sarajevo in an open-top car with limited police protection, all while five assassins line the Archduke’s planned route. First of them, Mehmedbasic loses his nerve(don’t we all) and fails to act, but the second assassin Cabrinovic hurls a grenade at the car. It misses but explodes, and the driver speeds away along a different route with exploded little human bits in his wake. Cabrinovic then swallows a cyanide pill and dives into the River Milajcka(in case he didn’t die in time).
Doesn’t end here.
The cyanide pill he’d swallowed had expired(first time something past sell-by saved someone) and the river wasn’t deep enough to drown in. The police hauls him out, serves him good old-fashioned mob justice but stupidly fails to interrogate him.
Meanwhile the Archduke has his blood-spattered speech brought to him at the Town Hall, thanking citizenry for their ‘joy at the failure of the assassination’.
Spoke too soon, mate.
The driver on his way to their next stop the Museum, persists with the intended route, bringing them to Gavrilo Princip. The engine gives out, the car stops dead before the assassin, and he hits the Archduke’s jugular vein with his first shot, the Duchess’s abdomen with his second, before swallowing a cyanide pill to evade capture.
But haha, his pill had expired, too.
There’s also a less rabid breed of nationalist, meet
‘Sovereignty Unconditionally Belongs to the Nation’
His Excellency General Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, scourge of the Allies, founder of the modern Turkish state. The only undefeated Ottoman military commander, his military acumen is renowned, having even cowed the British to renegotiate the Treaty of Sevres post-war, after his invasion of a belligerent Greece. I could go on about his military prowess, but that’s beside the point.
arab most monarchs dress their authority in religious edicts using dogma and superstition to tyrannize masses, Ataturk proved the very antithesis- having deposed the Caliph(the spiritual head to all Muslims) he rejected the same immense power himself. Delegations from Egypt, from afar as India begged him to assume the office as Ottoman kings of old had done, and he didn’t. Ataturk didn’t even stop here, he abolished the Caliphate, established a secular Republic of Turkey despite a Muslim majority, granted suffrage when just years prior women couldn’t testify in court, and over mere decades, tore down centuries of Ottoman ignorance.
The great man loved his nation not as a fanatic would, with unlettered bloody violence caked in ‘philosophy’, but with great vision. Ataturk’s rule saw thousands of schools constructed, primary education being made free and compulsory and a spike in literacy from roughly 10 to over 90 percent. With shrines everywhere, from Ataturk Marg in New Delhi, Ataturk borough in the Netherlands to even memorials in Muslim nations he so rabidly despised(Kemal Atatürk Avenue in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the Atatürk Avenue in the heart of Islamabad, Pakistan) he’s clearly become a symbol of so much more.
Today, with xenophobia and right wing extremismon the rise worldwide, with increasingly shrill accusations and counter-accusations of high treason, with gaudy, screechy claims to patriotism everywhere, it’s ever more important to recognize respect for one’s nation is rooted in, deed.