Time to worry: Turkey is becoming USA!

Published on Huffington Post, 6 June

Over the last ten years, we have seen countless articles and discussions, ranging from academic all the way to ridiculous, comparing Turkey to a wide range of countries.

On the top of the list comes Iran. Turkey has been continually likened to Iran, in the sense that soon the conservative Muslim party would take over and declare a theocracy. Some saw, more of a slow approach and a sinister Islamization project.

Then came the post-religious perspectives and argued that Turkey is now becoming a Russia with her own Putin, business and media relations and harsh clamp down on free speech. We are still waiting for hunting and bear-fighting pictures of PM Erdogan.

There is one country Turkey has never been likened to, and yet, the more closely I follow the developments in Turkey, the more I see how valid it is to point out: Turkey is becoming like the USA after 10 years of AK Party rule.

What makes me to come up with such a ridiculous observation?

In Turkey, just like in the US, we now have two opposing cultural and political poles. A person is either forever a Republican or a Democrat. You have no option but to remain so even tough secretly you might agree with some policies of the other.
In Turkey, just like in the US, these two political allegiances are not simply matters of policy but reflect a complex web of cultural preferences, views, beliefs and geographical location. Categorical loathing between the two are a given.

In Turkey, just like in the US, cultural and religious sensitivities of the two poles show themselves in symbolic causes that reflect their preferences. What is gun control debate in US, is what alcohol debate in Turkey is.

In both countries, religion is dominant, but not desires for a theocracy, but public morality and certain 'red-lines' that needs to be there. Yet what exactly they are is a contention between the two poles. In both countries, underlying socio-psychological patterns make even the most mundane discussions on healthcare, city planning and fiscal policy a cosmic battle for the soul of the nation, when it really is not.

In both countries, wearing a flag-pin, or adoring your house or Facebook with the flags is the measurement of how much you love your country and lack of it is a clear sign of lack of patriotism. In both countries, only one of the two worlds see themselves as reflecting the true American spirit or Turkishness. In actual terms, for the outsiders they both look American and Turkish enough.

Both countries believe that every nation on earth looks up to them with envy and love and yet at the same time everybody is working to undermine it. Both countries suffer from a cognitive dissonance between their national 'myths' of founding fathers and values and facts of their history and current status.

Most importantly, in both countries their governments evoke strong feelings. While Obama is the best thing since sliced bread for some, finally bringing true American values, for others he is a closet Muslim and socialist destroying American spirit. That is identical to how Turks are divided over Prime Minister Erdogan.

If you have been troubled by my straw man representation of both countries and shallow comparisons, you are right. USA is not Turkey, Turkey is not USA. But you should have felt the same way for thousands of articles that told you Turkey is an Iran, Russia, Egypt if not Gaza. The bottom line is this; let Turkey be Turkey and start using its actual name, Turkiye.