Note to Readers: The following post was written by David Brunet, a good friend and a former Fulbright Scholar in Turkey.
I lived in Turkey in 1992-93 as a Fulbright scholar, teaching at Ege University in Izmir. I’m pretty good at learning languages, so I made it a goal to learn as much Turkish as possible before and during my stay there. I was glad I tried to learn the language and although I never got to be as fluent as I had hoped, I was able to have simple conversations with grocery store clerks, shopkeepers, policemen, and others, and they were so pleased that an American wanted to have a conversation in their language.
I found the Turks to be warm and friendly, and even though they mirrored the U.S. in having a strong military, they were intensely interested in sustaining peace and strengthening cultures across the world. They valued diversity, the arts, and dialogue with other cultures.
My experience in Turkey was very positive. Despite our religious differences, I found that we shared basic values, and that in fact we worshipped the same God.
Overlooking the similarities between Islam and Christianity, President Bush labels the terrorists Islamic extremists. He forgets our Christian culture has also spawned terror: the gangs in our cities qualify as terrorists, and our use of force abroad to solve every dispute is viewed in other countries as terrorism.
James Carroll’s essay on Turkey in yesterday’s Boston Globe is right on target. The Turks have always seen us as their best allies. Long a part of European culture, they have also seen themselves as a bridge between the West and the Middle East. But as Carroll said, Bush is now creating chaos in Turkey’s immediate neighborhood.
Are the Turks our enemies? No! In my experience, Turkey responds with enthusiasm and gratitude when the U.S. and Europe show that we value their culture and their people. But Bush’s wars demonstrate to the world that we don’t value other people’s cultures. His response to a terrorist strike in the U.S. has destroyed the culture of Afghanistan and Iraq, and now he threatens to do the same in Iran.
Keep in mind that Iran has an ancient role as the cultural center of the Middle East. If we destroy that culture, we’ll alienate even more of the world’s population.