Tag Turkey

Notes on America

Ilgaz sent me this great piece written by an American living in Istanbul. She writes on her revaluation of her personal identity through college and her stay in Istanbul. It’s thought provoking!

Unlearning the Myth of American Innocence

Suzy Hansen writes about the first time she understood that identity is created when reading James Baldwin:

“I’d had no idea that we had ever had to define our identities at all, because to me, white Americans were born fully formed, completely detached from any sort of complicated past.”

This rung my bell, as I had a similar experience in college, specifically an American Literature class I took in Wellington while reading The Great Gatsby. The class was entirely Kiwi except for me, and a lot of the lectures and discussions focused on American cultural identity in relation to a Kiwi cultural identity. I was the first time I’d heard anyone discuss American Culture from the outside looking in.

I was used to criticism of American culture. Through high school I was a fan of the Beat writers, American Transcendentalists, Fight Club’s Palahniuk, and Robinson Jeffers. I had a punk rock, Adbusters attitude of cutting through bullshit and focusing on who really benefits from any given cultural form.

These authors offered an alternative to the bland consumerist conformity that forms the background of middle-American life, and I embraced them. My choice to study in New Zealand was an attempt to take “the road less traveled” as the famous poem goes.

The Kiwi professor and TAs approached America as a foreign culture and from the outside they were able to thoughtfully criticize problems with the American dream with a clarity I had never heard before. The arguments were familiar but the perspective was new, and it rattled me.

I had never considered myself a nationalist but I found myself reflexively defending cultural values I didn’t realize I’d internalized.

Goals ARE achievable, “where there is a will, there is a way.” Social mobility IS REAL. People grow up poor and work hard and send their children to college. That happened in MY family so I know it’s true. Cars and driving, road trips, moving across country, these things have a psychological effect, there is freedom in that. I’ve experienced it! These ideas weren’t manufactured in me, they are real!

But looking into American literature from another cultural perspective, I saw that these are not universal truths, they are American ideas local to a place and a part of a system of myth-making, national brand building. From this perspective even rebellious American authors questioning of the status quo became status quo and are absorbed into the brand. A snake biting it’s own tail.

There was some business man in the 80s-90s trying to decide whether to take a job at Apple Computer or at Coca-cola. Steve Jobs asked him, “do you want to put sugar into water or do you want to change the world?” The guy started working for Apple.

But think, he could have changed the world.

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

That’s the last bit of The Great Gatsby. The urging, the stretching-out-for, the pretension, reaching toward a goal, but inevitably reaffirming the place they started from. (There are big resonances here in the 20-movements and neutrality work: seeking neutrality of movement we discover the clown.)

So what? Do you give up and quit? Do you cynically sit back, criticizing the efforts of others? Do you say, “Fuck it all! This is who I am now?” These questions were right in the middle of all the texts I was reading back then how couldn’t I have heard them?

I’m In Love With Your Nightingale

These days I’ve been filling my head with the bad news from Turkey. I shouldn’t do it because the desire to understand never leads to a better picture of what’s going on, it just makes me nervous and gloomy. Plus because I’m not there I can’t feel the normalcy of everyday life in Istanbul which makes it worse. Lucky for me Ilgaz posted this video of people dancing in Kadıköy (my old neighborhood) showing the spirit of the Turks that I knew best. Something open hearted, joyful and goofy.

Facebook translate is bad

The video is great but I had get her to translate her comment on it for me because Facebook translate does a terrible job of Facebook translating. The message she wrote under the video when she posted it translated like this:

Blow Ohal or something, right in the head. Actually you all interim Boyle, right? Come on guys admit it :) Not quite the azcik watch, would you rather:

Thank’s for nothing Facebook translate. Here is a better translation of her comment:

OK, OK there’s a coup, a state of emergency and everything. But admit that this feeling is inside all of your heads.
If do don’t feel it, just take a look and you will find joy again.

Much better. Then I asked her to translate the song which doesn’t quite flow in English the way it does in Turkish. But who cares, let’s dance!

I resent my destiny, it didn’t hurt again
I swore to my destiny, the black night
This strange heart, I’m in love with your nightingale

Turkey Today

 What is going on in Turkey?

The answer is not entirely clear. But the stakes are high. Watching the attempted coup unfold from my laptop in Ljubljana last Friday was unsettling. I lived in Istanbul for about two years and never felt directly threatened by anybody. But as the frequency of violent news increased I had a harder and harder time being able to call home and honestly say that I felt safe. The time came to leave for a few reasons, one of the main ones was the rising level of background stress just got to be too much.


During my time in Istanbul I never tried to shrug off my yabancı status. I never learned the language, never stopped dressing a little funny, never got asked directions. I always felt like an outsider, protected as a foreigner. Ilgaz warned me about this from time to time, she could see what I couldn’t. She saw that there were good reasons to avoid this or that neighborhood and worried about my walking home alone after midnight.

So reading about this coup attempt gave me some mixed feelings: relief, that I’m not there to feel the rising tension in the air generated by chants of protestors, sirens and a rare whiff of tear gas. But also some kind of masochistic nostalgia, I should be in Istanbul talking with friends about what it feels like to be in the midst of a nation in transition.


So what do I make of what’s going on?

As the days pass, the English language news channels have been covering the changes that have been taking place post coup attempt. I should say that I don’t trust anything being said about the source of the coup. It’s all too speculative, fingers pointing one way and another: it’s the parallel state, it’s the CIA, he did it to himself! Maybe in 10 or 15 years the victors will write the history of the events of the past week. But that’s all too hard to parse out for now so I suspend my desire to know.

Something that is clear is that the response to the coup was swift and powerful, reaching not just into the military but all aspects of civil life in Turkey. As I said there are a lot of English language news sources reporting on this, but the scale of the changes didn’t hit home for me until I saw all those headlines rounded up and organized into the table below. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of any of the items below, I got it from Reddit after all, but it is a compelling list of “measures taken after the coup: dismissals, suspensions, media closures, travel bans.”

Travel Bans

  • 3,000,000 civil servants banned from exiting the country s
  • All university professors banned from exiting the country s


  • 24 TV and Radio stations close to the Gülen movement had their licenses revoked s
  • Unknown number of newspapers close to the Gülen movement stopped publishing
  • Leman (satyrical, leftist, unrelated to Gülen) magazine’s last issue banneds
Institution Supended, dismissed or arrested
Ministry of the Interior 8777 s 7,899 policemen of them 3,021 high ranking, 30 province governors, 92 vice province-governors, 41 district governors and others
Judges and prosecutors 2745 s
Energy Ministry 300 s
Defence Ministry 262 military judges and prosecutors s
Education Ministry 15200 suspended, 21000 private teacher licenses revoked s, 1577 university deans ordered to resign s
President’s office 257 s
Intelligence Service (MİT) 180 s
Religious affairs directorate 492 s 3 province mufti, 31 district mufti, 1 minister advisor etc
Economy Ministry 1500 s
Family and Social ministry 393 s
Istanbul University 95 professors s
Parliament 5 high ranking administrators arrested s
Universities 4 university rectors dismissed Dicle, Gazi, Yıldız Teknik ve Yalova üniversitesi s
Ministry of Customs and Trade 184 s
Energy Market regulator 25 s
Capital Markets Board 7 s


Just read another article and wanted to add it. The Turkish government has suspended all 3213 national ham radio licenses.

“The HF radio in Turkey is now silent. No transmissions are allowed. … Who’s transmitting outside turkey without licence should be considered a pirate – said Mr Erdogan.” Source

It might not seem too big. But amateur radio is an essential part of disaster recovery especially when other modes of communication are down. To quote W. Graig Fugate, administrator of FEMA and Dept. Homeland Security, “Amateur Radio often times is our last line of defense…When you need amateur radio, you really need them.”