Türkiye'nin en iyi köşe yazarları en güzel köşe yazıları ile Hürriyet'te! Usta yazarlar ve gündemi değerlendiren köşe yazılarını takip edin.

How do white-washed Turks serve their anti-Americanism?

I was sitting at my desk, lost in thoughts over the usual chorus of "pleasantries" that filled my inbox in reply to some recent lines on Fethullah Gülen Hocaefendi, and, occasionally shaking my head over the extremely rich vulgar language these "readers’ letters" contained. At moments like that I always tend to lament over the bitter - but fortunately temporary - absence of my polite sparring partner Mustafa Akyol whose articles I miss dearly (Akyol has announced that he will resume his column in October).

I went through more and more letters and was surprisingly frozen at one letter that did not contain even a single word of insult. I smiled, re-read the lines, and thought that that reader must be Akyol’s alter ego. In fact, this article’s title belongs to that reader who had written with possibly the world’s cutest pseudonym, Aleda Elsu, and introduced herself as "a PhD candidate at an American university."

Ms. Elsu is apparently Turkish, but she proudly carries an American passport. She was referring to my column on June 10 titled "Enjoy ’Turkish Borat’ as your enlightened voter," and narrating a most bizarre story she had experienced. Elsu had recently been at a nice restaurant in İzmir with a group of college-educated Turks.

A "rather cranky" woman who she had the misfortune of sitting across from did not shake Elsu’s hand when they were introduced, did not reply when Elsu told her "bless you" when she sneezed, and did not say a word to Elsu despite her few desperate attempts to engage her in a conversation. After the "cranky woman" left, Elsu learned from another friend that the "cranky woman" had been rude to her "because Elsu was American."

I must apologize for having to shorten Elsu’s letter, but this is her assessment of that weird encounter:

"I cannot help but smile and also ponder whether xenophobia in Turkey can only be attributed to the non-white Turks, i.e. Recep Ivedik (the new hilly-billy character of Turkish cinema) and the cruel characters of the Valley of the Wolves movie?

"Émy sad answer to Mr. Bekdil’s question was that white Turks can be as xenophobic as the others, indeed, I had to self-correct, and maybe they were the ’white-washed’ Turks who could not yet become white enough..?

"In this specific case we had a college-educated woman of mid-30s, who was wearing (American) jeans and shoes, driving a German car, singing Greek tunes and was also deeply anti-American.

"ÉHere in the heart of İzmir, at a restaurant in the late evening hours, of all the college-educated women and men, I was snubbed and had a hand hanging over in the air, because I (was) considered an American citizen. This was a woman who also failed to enjoy the tunes of ciftetelli simply because she had considered it the music of the lower classes.

Powerful arguments

"Reading Mr. Bekdil’s lines I guess I should count my blessings. What if I were seated across from a fan of Recep Ivedik or one of the main characters of Valley of the Wolves, would they leave my hand hanging and with no responses to my good blessings as wellÉ In the meantime, we should consider the fact that to be xenophobic, putatively, one does not need to be a part of the uneducated, unwashed masses, just like to be a xeno one does not even have to be a foreigner..." Interesting story...

And very powerful arguments. No doubt, Elsu is right to think that xenophobia cannot be exclusively attributed to one particular class of Turks.

But I am sure, being a PhD candidate at an American university, Elsu should be aware of various research that xenophobic behavior/thinking tends to augment amongst Turks favoring religious and ethnic conservatism.

If Elsu had visited her former homeland in January, for example, I would strongly advise her against the idea of walking around mosques after Friday prayers and waving to pious Turks her all too bright American passport. She might not have escaped with a hand hanging in the air. I would not advise her to sit across from a fan of Recep Ivedik or one of the characters of Valley of the Wolves either. Most probably her hand would not have hung in the air. I am sure such characters would treat her nicely too, due to the "traditional Turkish hospitability for the foreigner, especially when the guest is female." Yet, I would not recommend such encounters, which usually end up at police stations and, later, in courtrooms.

As for the "cranky woman’s" despise of the ciftetelli tunes, I must say I was a little bit disappointed.

I always thought in the "dreamland" that goes by the name America they taught people to respect other people’s tastes and preferences. Certainly there must be millions of Americans who do not like "cowboy music," or millions of Germans who do not fancy Bavarian yodel songs. We must not love everything that belongs to our native culture.

I would wish all the best to Elsu in her PhD studies but also recommend her to do more on social studies. Her presumed correlation between "dislike of a culture/country and consumption of foreign commodities, including cultural," is at best a highly dubious theory with no empirical or scientific support. She basically argues that someone who wears American jeans and shoes, drives a German car and loves Greek tunes cannot/should not be anti-American.

I would rather think Elsu was a little too fragile about her new country. To put it in a question, I would ask, does anyone who wears French outfits, drives an American car and loves Italian tunes have to be sympathetic to the French? Does a Brit who uses a Turkish-made washing machine at home not have the liberty to be anti-Turkish?

Life is certainly far more complicated than that. For instance, we even have a Muslim preacher who spent most of his career cursing the crusaders, Christian invaders, Zionism and defended Koranic teachings, and who eventually took refuge in the lands of the "Great Satan" - and at a time when his new homeland invaded a Muslim country, a situation in which the Koran explicitly says all Muslims should fight the non-Muslim invader. It just happens ...
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