It’s easy to second-guess other countries’ political situations. Easy and actually kind of fun. When I lived in Turkey, I found local politics a welcome distraction from my own country’s problems. The answers to my adopted country’s dilemmas seemed so clear.
From the beginning of our stay, in 2010, the people we knew spoke against Prime Minister Erdoğan. They said he was trying to turn Turkey into Iran. I wasn’t convinced. Turkey didn’t look at all like what I thought Iran looked like. Turkey was exuberant, with bars and liquor stores and girls and women dressing anyway they wanted. There was no hint of religious repression, the police presence simply a carryover from the Republic’s decades of military rule.
I realized that Erdoğan’s supporters were drawn mainly from the pious folks that Kemal Atatürk had not favored. And their support was fierce. I wondered if the so-called White Turks—the more secular citizens—could have gone easier on the pious folks, perhaps bending the rule that women wearing headscarves not enter government buildings, even schools.
Denying anyone schooling seemed harsh.
I knew my view of the situation was simplistic, lacking details, nuances, cultural factors. But I wondered: if the headscarf women and their families had been validated, maybe they wouldn’t now have such a strong attachment to Erdoğan.
As we’ve seen, Turkey has become alarmingly authoritarian under an increasingly powerful Erdoğan, who has been in power for thirteen years.
Now we in America have elected an authoritarian leader. How did this happen? Well, there are many reasons, but a big one involves the same kind of thing: not paying attention to the needs of all constituents. The people in power over the years have not validated, have not done enough for less-educated, white males. This group, often referred to as rednecks, enthusiastically supports Mr. Trump. (Strange, isn’t it, the use of colors as labels in political discourse?)
Parallels, folks. As usual, I’d love to know your thoughts.