Following Mr. Floyd’s brutal murder at the hands of the Minneapolis police department President Erdoğan shared this comment on May 29: “The racist and fascist approach that led to the death of George Floyd in the U.S. city of Minneapolis as a result of torture has not only deeply saddened all of us, but it has also become one of the most painful manifestations of the unjust order we stand against across the world.” Now “that’s a tall order” one would rather be inclined to say, if one does not exclaim “well, you do have some nerve indeed, sir…” right away. 

True, President Erdoğan’s playbook is similar to those of the likes of Roger Stone and Steve Bannon –rhetorically speaking: No holds barred, take no prisoners, shoot first ask questions later, attack, attack, attack… Does it work? It does, judging by the outcome of the elections since 2002. Yet, Republic of Turkey’s history did not start with AKP’s coming to power in 2002 and, for that matter, these lands’ history does not start with the republic itself either. We have too many skeletons hidden in our wardrobes and we are not good at confronting the reality. We are also vague in adapting and in a way translating universal concepts as well. 

We have difficulties to discern governing from ruling. On accountability, our grades are weak. On writing history, we are bent on officially brainwashing our children. On research, at present only the intrepid dares to face the straitjacket of counterterrorism law. Looking towards the past, our archives are still waiting to be thoroughly “sanitised”. The media is almost fully nationalised. Public relations are not part of our diplomacy but both became one and the same. Electoral campaign season never ends. Not to mention the rule of law being suspended and the constitutionality of the regime is in uncharted territory. 

Beyond all that, and “all that” is quite something in any case, the search for the soul of this republic and the identity of this nation is still and was always under construction. No mercy for the student, no rest for the wicked. One can spend an entire lifetime turning this over and over, reading tomes and tomes of scholarly work and still find oneself scratching one’s head. Looking for a silver bullet such as Shils’ “center and periphery” or Wittfogel’s “oriental despotism” theories, or Said’s criticism of “orientalism” et al. can leave one even more baffled. Islamism overlaps with nationalism even though islamists were considered to be equivalents of the Christian Democrats only a mere decade ago. And oh, nationalism “is” patriotism. 

Slavery and racism are claimed to be non-existent. Ottoman Empire was not a colonial empire but a magnanimous and fair to all subjects sultanate. Armenian Genocide? Please do not mention it. Turks and Kurds are not Arabs, hence by default cannot even read the holy book but they are even more pious than their brothers and sisters by birth. Secularism exists as a constitutional principle but “sensibilities” exist, they are even more important than the laws and the Religious Affairs Directorate’s ever growing budget is bigger than many ministries combined. The so-called military oversight in national security and foreign affairs ended but the current Defense Minister is the previous Chief of General Staff. There ain’t no Kurdish issue but some citizens “of Kurdish origins” are entitled have their own problems as long as these are expressed individually.     

Hereabove I have mentioned difficulties in adopting, adapting and “translating” certain concepts. Some on the contrary blossoms and/or bifurcates. Take nationalism. We have two words for it depending on your chosen identity. For the secularly oriented it is “ulusalcı” (pure Turkish) whereas for the traditionalist it is “milliyetçi” (of Arabic origin). Furthermore, roughly speaking the “milliyetçis” are represented in two separate political parties: One for the city-dweller, the other for the more rural. Many years ago, based on the answers that I got from him, I had technically diagnosed a self-proclaimed “ulusalcı” general a “national-socialist” and he had blown it by shouting “how dare you call me a nazi?” back at my face.         

Our official and public/individual reactions to Mr. George Floyd’s killing is a perfect looking glass mirror. Or is it? Perhaps it is rather a circus mirror, just the way we like them, mirrors. We are exempt of all sins. There were no enslaved Circassian women’s blood running in our veins. No property “confiscated” from our Armenian neighbours who decided to take an unexpected walk. No progress was genuine but forced top down and down the throats of this pious Sunni Muslim society. Let alone the Balkans, in the Middle East, all peoples’ eyes swell with tears when they reminisce about the golden years of the Pax Ottomana. “Like those resentful memories that wait at your doorstep with inquisitive eyes…” –as the lyrics of a popular Turkish song go- the question still uncomfortably remains: Who is “we” anyway?