ISTANBUL — Coming from the airport into this city of about 15 million people and 5 million cars, as my driver describes it, I pass ancient Roman ruins and blocks of upscale shops; an old hotel where Agatha Christie penned “Murder on the Orient Express,” smoke shops and modest restaurants, and luxury car dealers. It is a metaphor for the choices Turks are being forced to make under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: forward to a better future and a recapture of their secular state, or back to a nostalgic past when Islam was the official religion of the Ottoman Empire.
Recent waves of terrorist attacks throughout the country have raised security levels. My car was stopped and given a cursory search before being allowed to proceed to the hotel entrance where I was then required to pass through a metal detector and have my hand luggage scanned before approaching the registration desk.
Here, where the Bosphorus Strait divides Europe from Asia, President Erdogan seems bent on imposing his brand of radical Islam on what has for decades been a nation ruled by secular leaders. It was the late president Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who helped establish the Republic of Turkey, modeled on Western governments and their belief in church-state separation.
Erdogan, it appears, hears more than the Muslim call to prayer. It’s as though he hears a “call” to tear down the wall separating mosque and state and, writes the Christian Science Monitor, restore Turkey to “its historical Ottoman influence.”
The controversial election last April resulted in just over 51 percent of voters approving constitutional reforms, which eliminates the office of prime minister and allows Erdogan to possibly hold onto power for years to come. There is still disagreement over whether Erdogan and his party cheated in order to win.
In addition to questions about Turkey’s future role in NATO, how would a Turkish Islamic state change the fight against “radical Islamic terrorism,” as President Trump called it until recently when that label seems to have disappeared from his rhetoric?
An American citizen who has lived and worked in Turkey for some time, but wishes to remain anonymous for fear that his comments might bring him harm, tells me that Turks who have the resources to leave the country are getting out. He says there has been an upsurge in property purchases in the U.S., particularly in Florida.
An August 2016 article in The Wall Street Journal reported: “luxury-condo developers are seeing about 5 percent of preconstruction inventory sold to buyers from Turkey.”
My American friend says there is “no convincing political opposition” in Turkey at the moment. “Clerics no longer define Islam, Erdogan does.”
In 2004, Erdogan participated in a panel at The Academy of Achievement in Chicago. Asked about Islamic terrorism, he responded: “Turkey is not a country where moderate Islam prevails. This expression is wrong. The word Islam is uninflected, it is only Islam.” Others would disagree, so who gets to decide? That is a question debated throughout the Islamic and non-Islamic world. Who SHOULD decide is the larger question. In Turkey, Erdogan has set himself up as the lone decider.
Further contributing to instability in Turkey is a referendum on independence scheduled for September 25 by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Daniel Pipes, who heads the Middle East Forum, says while he supports Kurdish independence and a “single, grand Kurdish state, I see the referendum as a danger to all concerned by further unsettling a highly unstable region, perhaps provoking any of Turkish, Iranian, or Iraqi central government invasions of the KRG, perhaps leading to a confrontation between U.S. and Russian forces.”
As if we don’t already have enough to worry about.
One of Turkey’s main exports in addition to Turkish towels, the Turkish bath and Turkish coffee is the delicious confection known as Rahadlakum, or Turkish Delight.
Unfortunately, with their prospects declining, many Turks today worry that their future may not be anything in which they can take delight.
Refusing to uphold the law became somewhat fashionable in the Obama era—especially when it concerned immigration. Well, now enter Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Pardon the Alabama vernacular, but Sessions ain’t a real fashionable guy. Good for him. We either have laws or we don’t. We can’t make them up on the fly.
Tuesday, Sessions announced that the Trump administration would no longer shield from deportation undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as minors. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, he said, “was implemented unilaterally to great controversy and legal concern after Congress rejected legislative proposals to extend similar benefits on numerous occasions to this same group of illegal aliens.” So, the administration has given Congress six months to take action and reflect the will of the people.
For his part, Sessions is committed to enforcing the law above all else. Period. Bringing DACA to an end is not an insider legislative tactic. Rather, it is a return to proper law enforcement. And if Congress legislates a provision protecting undocumented immigrants who have mostly known life only in the United States—and President Donald Trump signs the bill—Sessions would be the first person to uphold that law.
Look, I hope Congress steps up and does exactly that. Passing an exception for those who came here illegally at a young age seems like it would be the fair thing to do.
Oh and by the way, let’s not forget that DACA is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Just as President Barack Obama deferred action on North Korea and Afghanistan, Trump and his team now have to deal with the consequences of the previous administration’s deferrals.
After all, Obama’s overreach was not the result of a humanitarian crisis. It caused a humanitarian crisis. To this day, no one knows the full consequences of the resulting human wave of young people that appeared on our border when Obama gave the all-clear. And now our democratic system must deal with the problem.
It is a little harsh, but if the shoe fits and the GOP passes the buck on DACA, Republicans will have to call out our elected members in Congress for failing to take charge. Again, to quote McCarthy: “As for the Republican establishment, DACA is just another Obamacare: something that they were stridently against as long as their objections were futile, but that they never sincerely opposed and—now that they are accountable—cannot bring themselves to fight.”
So, Republicans now face a test. Sessions is upholding the law. If Republicans cower and punt, we will get what we deserve at the ballot box.
I spent Thursday in the Democrats’ booth at the Twin Falls County Fair. Armed with my newly printed cards proclaiming myself as a writer, I attempted to engage people about what they thought government should do in Idaho. I had an enjoyable but not exceptional time because people who disagreed with me preferred to refrain from discourse.
One general theme I did hear was anger about “people who live off the taxpayer and don’t work.” I understand that position. However, it says too little about the social safety net and why it is there.
Work is a complex subject, but one of my life axioms is that all people need work in their life as much as they need food and water. Even during childhood, our job is to explore and learn. Engaging our world is what humans do.
Work is putting forth effort toward a goal and is hardwired into our brain. The psychologist Maslow pointed to a hierarchy of needs for humans, and it did not end with a state of having no goals in life. In fact, people who seem adrift at the end of life are said to have lost the will to live.
We have a common idea that work is less pleasant than entertainment, but they really are the same thing. Entertainment is just work that we love doing. I know lots of people who finish chores in their garden feeling renewed. I feel sore, dirty, and satisfied only with accomplishment. We all have a balance in our lives of work-work and entertaining-work.
Work also produces the funding for the goals of our life. The hope of achieving goals that require funding keeps us working for money, but it is not the basic reason we work.
The social safety net keeps people hoping. Hope produces goals. Unwelcome changes in life make previously set goals harder to reach or unattainable. Disability, losing a job, retirement, especially from a job you can no longer do physically or mentally, can quash hope. Being told that you aren’t good enough because … quashes hope.
Yes, some people have resorted to better living through chemistry. Some have accepted getting through the day as their goal in life. These solutions lead to less hope. Some people may use the safety net to fund this life, but I doubt that most of them do. There is too much theft, too many payday lenders and pawn shops for me to believe that there isn’t an off-the-grid economy that sustains a kind of minimal life in Idaho.
Yes, many people who are using some type of government help to prop up their life have things that seem like luxuries. Many of those things are from “before” are purchased at thrift stores or garage sales, bartered or gained by selling other items. Yes, there are tobacco products or alcohol, but they both fall into another category of problem. Cable TV, the internet, cellphones (limited, inexpensive plans), and especially a car are all necessities of life with any quality these days.
Work is not something people use the safety net to avoid, but there is a problem of finding hopeful work. I know of no welfare program that encourages sloth. But I do know people who need the kindness of strangers to begin to prosper. If Idaho’s safety net is inadequate, let’s fix it. Humans need work to fulfill their lives, and denying the need some have for assistance is turning our back on the commandment to be our brother’s keeper.
I would like to give my sincere thanks to all military veterans who have given so much to this great nation. They deserve our positive support for protecting our freedom.
Let’s support those who have supported us. Military veterans have sacrificed so much for our freedoms which we cannot seem to thank them enough for. Many, after serving, look for employment back in the United States. Currently, the U.S. Postal Service employs 113,000 military veterans which again also serve this country, many in a different kind of uniform.
If we are to continue to “thank them” we must support the U.S. Postal Service. All of the Postal Services’ revenue is made by affordable postage sales and not by taxes.
Congress must also “thank veterans” by passing laws that restore the Postal Services’ financial health without reducing service to our customers. The people of America deserve the best possible service that we can possibly give them.
So the next time you purchase stamps or mailing a package through the U.S. Postal Service, you are “thanking a veteran” by providing him or her with a job that they can live on.
Idaho State Association of Letter Carriers