Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘being away from your home country’

“I want to dedicate this award to Turkey, my beautiful and lonely country I love with passion” said Nuri Bilge Ceylan, the Turkish film director, as he received the best director award in Cannes Film Festival of 2008. This was in May. And two days ago, on July 27 2008 to be exact, two bombs exploded in the Güngören neighborhood of İstanbul, killing, so far, 17 people, and leaving more than a hundred wounded. Since I learned the explosions, I can’t help but repeat the phrase “my beautiful and lonely country”. It keeps floating inside my head, hitting occasionally the walls of my perception but mainly remaining in that territory which is between understanding and intuition.

“my beautiful and lonely country”…

Bombs and/or terror related attacks are hardly news for Turkey anymore. Just two weeks ago some people who the police claimed were members of Al Qaida, wanted to attack the US embassy in Istanbul, leaving three cops dead. Killing and the language of war is no news either. Not a month passes without the military proudly expressing how many terrorists it killed by its super technological killing machines. Bombs, killings, terror, military operations, Islamists and seculars, the lost piece in the puzzle of mild Islam, a stage for the overdose kemalists to display and put into action their bloody plans… and amidst all these, a country who lost its soul, if it ever had one, lost that “it” that makes a country lovely, rather than lonely. Amidst all the fanfare, a country which is so lonely, yet still beautiful.  

I have been living in the US for the last 7 years and it seems I will be here for the immediate years to come. I am an in between soul who would miss turkey a lot when I’m in the US and would start to complain about it big time as soon as I land on Turkish soil. I do want to go back one day however. There is the place that feeds me, that is the place I feel I belong ultimately. Is it not sad, and in some ways weird, that the urge to go back to my homeland hits its peak in such days as July 27, 2008; on such days when the land bleeds, so to speak. On this type of days, I remember, and despise more than ever, my relatives’ and friends’ friendly “warnings” that Turkey is no good and I should stay in the US as much as I can.

There is no easy explanation for this. From the perspective of the “rational man”, this does not make any sense. Dying due to an explosion is much more likely in Turkey than in the US. I’m not even talking about more mundane stuff such as academic freedom, or the problem of scarce resources in the academia. Whatever comparison you come up with, Turkey comes short. And so it is clear that this desire to go back is not “rational”. Even though I can think of moments where it could be more rational for some people, It is about something else in my case.

It may be about guilt. The guilt that arises from the subtle innuendo placed in those friendly “warnings” urging me to stay in the US. “you saved yourself” they would say, “don’t come back, we’ll take care of ourselves here.” That guilt is nothing, of course, compared to what I feel towards myself and my loved ones. In certain ways, here I’m depriving of myself of my language, culture, codes, etc. But more than that.. The thought of death frequents my thoughts on these issues of staying or leaving. And it is in these days of “terror” that we see, most shockingly, that death is near. It’s around the corner. For myself, for my family, for my friends… It could be anytime. The relatively well protected lives of ours are in many ways an illusion. Especially in a place like Turkey, it could be anytime… That moment when you realize this is the hardest and that moment is the one that pulls you so strongly to where you call home. As cold as it sounds, you want to be next to them when that happens.

One other thing however is that the more you stay away, the more you start to look at your country from outside. You start comparing it with others. I start noticing, since I came here, that Turkey as an exception in the middle east is not quite the point. The attacks in Lebanon, which remain unsolved forever, are not in fact very much different from what has just happened in Istanbul. A game is being played, messages are being given, but there is no way to understand for the lay people to understand. Welcome to the foggy landscape of the middle east (featuring turkey!).

On the one hand, there is of course great virtue in this. What, after all, is social science if you cannot take a distance from your object of analysis? If I am a sociology student studying Turkey, I of course need that type of a distance. But you also lose something in that process. Part of me, as someone who constantly looks himself from outside, does just not want this to happen. Let’s not lose it, let’s keep it as it is. Let’s despise the country, hate from it, and love it at the same time. Let’s feel all these but not surrender to the cold blooded outsidedness of an outsider. Because what it slowly chips away from you is the passion, the desire to do something, even if you know that that something is utterly meaningless.

To be fair (to being outside), this feeling also has to do with beginning to understand politics in a multidimensional frame. It is about learning politics and gaining that vision that the discipline gives you. But it is also about understanding that that lonely country is not so lonely after all, which is also something a sincere course on the history of the middle east would tell you. So many different global powers are interfering with the people and so many different and slippery coalitions are forged and so many of them fail everyday. It’s a total mess. But Turkey is still lonely, because she is trapped in various chains, her history, her ultra nationalist vibes, the repuclic’s fear of religion and Kurds and non muslims… Is loneliness not, after all, a state of entrapment? But this is exactly the point: part of what makes this country beautiful is this feeling of loneliness.

I tried to find an ending for this essay, which indeed is more like a stream of thoughts than an essay, but I failed. There is no end in sight (anyway).

Read Full Post »