Gül’s speech

Gül’s speech

Our political culture has always been confrontational; “we” are always white, “they” are always and always black.

Because we do not see other colors, our confrontations are very sharp. What our leaders say about each other is enthusiastically applauded by their supporters. Those angry and aggressive words are the reflections of this white and black culture. 

After this evaluation, now, let’s look at President Abdullah Gül’s speech at the Parliament: “Such polarization obviously has the potential to harm the social cohesion of our people. Therefore, we cannot view every issue and every debate in terms of ‘black or white, right or wrong, justified or unjustified, us and them’ or ‘friend or foe.’ In fact, viable solutions for social issues can usually be found in the grey areas, on the middle ground and by way of compromise.” 

Just as much as the confrontational speeches of the leaders depress me, these words of Gül lifted my soul. 

It is exceptionally significant that Gül has emphasized that solutions, especially in social and political issues, can usually be found in the grey areas, on the middle ground and by way of compromise,” not in one ideology solely. 

Even in science, “the truth” is not at anybody’s monopoly; with different theories, we are only getting closer to the truth. 

Especially in the social and political fields, “the truth” cannot be at anybody’s, any party’s or any political ideology’s monopoly. Because everybody’s belief, identity, lifestyle and social interest is “the truth” according to their own self… Moreover, there are contradictions existing among them. For this reason, the solution can only be generated not through the monopoly of one of the “truths” but can be “found in the grey areas, on the middle ground and by way of compromise.” 

Soft power concept 

Let’s now look at how this perspective takes President Gül to different kind of thoughts in the practicality of politics: 

First, the criticisms Gül is aiming at radicalism, extremism and “sectarian strife of Middle Ages” are striking… 

He did not describe the Gezi Park incidents as conspiracy. He pointed to the urbanization factor; he said, “we should try to understand the sentiments of the younger generation in particular through detailed sociological studies.” 

He said “unfortunately six of our citizens including one police officer lost their lives. May Allah rest their souls in peace.” He extended his condolences to their bereaved families. At the same time he criticized acts of vandalism and violence, and excessive use of force by the police. 

He did not speak with a “town square rally” style on foreign policy matters; on the contrary, he reminded that Turkey’s “fundamental priority in foreign policy is to maintain our position as a soft and virtuous power.” While he mentioned Egypt, he indeed defended democracy but he did not burn the bridges, he said, “The long-standing ties of brotherhood and friendship with the people and state of Egypt are strong enough to overcome the differences of opinion between us.” It is also significant that Gül has emphasized the European Union. 

In his last Parliament inauguration speech of his presidential term, Gül expressed that he was born on the 27th year of the republic which is now in its 90th year. I am remembering Raymond Aron’s lines explaining how in France the Jacobean republicans conflicted with the Catholic school for 150 years and how they reconciled afterward. Isn’t it too long, 150 years? 

Isn’t it time now that we end our conflicting issues that have filled our history of 100 years with harsh and painful fights, with reconciliation and look at the future? In this context, I find President Gül’s style and way of thinking very positive. 

Taha Akyol is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published on Oct. 2. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.