A clash of bigotries
June 15, not just me but millions of others in Turkey were holding breaths to see what Taksim Solidarity, a group that represented at least some of the protesters in Gezi Park, would say in the face of the government’s concessions in Taksim. There was some expectation that these positive steps, which included a promise for a public vote on the future of Taksim Square, would calm things down.
However, I was not terribly optimistic, and I explained the reason on Twitter: “The crises whose actors happen to be Turks,” I said, in Turkish, “are very unlikely to be solved with reason, deliberation, dialogue and consensus.” Moderation was simply not a dominant theme in the nation’s political culture.
And Taksim Solidarity proved me right. Instead of toning down, they announced that their “resistance” would grow even bigger, spreading all across the country. In return, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was already barely holding his “patience,” ordered the police to “clear” Gezi Park from the peaceful occupiers. And Istanbul, once again, became the setting for clashes between tear gas-pumping police and angry protesters.
In fact, we lost several opportunities in the past 20 days to calm things down. On the very first day, for example, the government could have done what it would do two weeks later: Apologize for the “excesses” of the police, announce that Gezi Park would not become “a mall or a residence,” and announce a public vote. Instead, Erdoğan remained defiant and provocative, day after day, rally after rally.
On the other hand, the protesters could have been much more reasonable and much less vulgar. The educated, liberal-leaning crowd in Gezi Park was commendably civilized, but others were often disturbing. They kept on insulting Erdoğan’s wife and dead mother with the most disgusting words, only to make the angry-by-default prime minister angrier. Levent Kırca, a hardcore Kemalist comedian, vowed, “Erdoğan will have the same fate as Menderes” (i.e., execution by the military), only to further provoke the coup-o-phobia on the government’s side.
In other words, we have been in a vicious cycle: Bigotry on both sides has strengthened each other, and deepened the crisis.
Yet still, it is the government, whose job is to run the country and manage its crises, who is primarily responsible for this mess. Unfortunately, though, both the government and its hardcore supporters are proving that they do not have the mental capacity to understand what is really happening. By resorting to the refuge of all political bigots – conspiracy theories – they are depriving themselves from the chance to analyze the roots of the fury in the streets and their own role in its making. By lashing out against foreign media for “conspiring against Turkey,” they are further ridiculing themselves.
Of course there are saner people, too, on both sides, who call for reason and restraint. And I think these voices will be more influential in the mid-term. We are just causing ourselves a lot of damage before coming to our senses.