Dear Mr. Capsis
I read your article “Going Home to Turkey” with growing dismay. Beginning with your reference to Turks’ origins as “marauding” tribes whose (now paraphrasing) “only civilization could be carried in their saddlebags,” to progressively offensive comments that sound like they came from Donald Trump’s tweets, I feel compelled to write my first letter to any editor.
I hope you saw the recent Met Museum exhibit about the Seljuk Turks if you were in any doubt as to the Turks’ early civilization. As for the Parthenon, you have obviously drunk the Kool-Aid from your family picnics to describe it as the “first visual statement of civilization.” Really? You can school yourself about the Egyptian pyramid of Djoser, built thousands of years earlier, and many, many others.
You appear to lament the Turks’ conquering of Constantinople (now Istanbul) and looting in 1453. Was the fall of the corrupt and ossified Byzantine Empire upsetting to you because it was at the hands of Moslems? Your statement “they [the conquerors] had nothing to assuage their egos with but the conviction that they were the children of the one, and yes, the only true god” was a laugh-out-loud blend of “you were there” fantasy and lamentable religion-bashing.
I was dumbfounded by your belittlement of Turks in your mini-memoir—Turkish boys who live inland can’t swim compared to Greek boys? You were “shocked” by this? And the outrageous comment that you found it “very Turkish” that there were no women in the room at the reception you attended at that time. Turkish women’s early emancipation is well documented, and before we elect our first female President in the U.S. I might remind your readers that Turkey had its first female Prime Minister—Tansu Ciller—in 1993. Do your readers know that Greek women weren’t allowed to vote until 1952? In Turkey: 1935.
But before I sink further down into the same unfortunate “comparison of cultures” that you engaged in—barely masked by your reminiscences—I’ll end by saying that just because you have a platform in a print publication, that doesn’t mean that you should indulge yourself by dredging up tired old ethnic slurs.
—Jaylan Turkkan, West 11th Street
Good Friday, Jaylan
I was so disturbed by your e-mail, I stopped reading and came back to it this morning (August 5th).
You are quite right, I indulged in stereotypical characterizations and for that there is no excuse.
Wednesday night, I visited two Turkish brothers who are about to lose their restaurant.
After investing $2 million, I found that their kitchen was dead because of a lost gas line.
I went out and brought back food to cheer them up.
They come from a village not too far from that of my father, and I count them as friends.