Saturday, February 2, 2008

Norman Corwin Could Not Have Said It Better

From an op/ed in Today's Zaman:


Identities and institutions like Turkishness, the Turkish nation, the state, legislative organs, judicial institutions, security units and the republic cannot be insulted, degraded or belittled through constructive criticism and discussions on their actions or their deficiencies.

Quite the contrary, criticism and discussion may help them revitalize and become stronger institutions. Insulting Turkishness may be done by killing Hrant Dink or slaughtering Father Andrea Santoro; it may also be done by murdering people in Malatya simply because they print Bibles. Turkey's image is undermined by intimidating Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk and ensuring his departure from the country. Insulting the state's security forces, military or police may be done by welcoming murderers who killed the thinkers of this country as if they are heroes and by taking photos with them. The image and prestige of the Turkish military establishment was eroded when it staged the military coups in 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997. Its image was further damaged when the equipment and materials of the Nokta news magazine were confiscated because it revealed a military coup plotted by a retired military officer.

Denigration of Turkishness all over the world is possible through attempts to keep the Susurluk, Kahramanmaraş and Çorum incidents unresolved. You may insult Turkishness by avoiding confrontation of the past. The republic may be denigrated by taking steps inconsistent with contemporary administrative approaches. Denigration of Turkishness is made possible by penalizing thought and sentencing a number of writers, artists and thinkers like Atilla Yayla. Denigration of Turkishness is possible via attempts to eliminate the differences and diversity by relying on legal instruments like the infamous Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). You may insult Turkishness by resisting a democratic system. Insulting the judiciary is possible by releasing the police officer who almost killed a young person who kept running from him despite an initial warning. Respect for the judicial institutions may be seriously undermined when the relevant institutions take a timid approach in dealing with the actual perpetrators of Dink's murder. Insulting state institutions may be done by strong attachment to cumbersome and non-operational state structures and resistance to contemporary approaches.

Praising the crime and the offender is possible by remaining indifferent to the actual perpetrators and instead keeping the hit men in prisons. The Turkish identity may be praised and promoted by making every effort to ensure apprehension of the criminals. Insulting Turkishness is possible by remaining indifferent to all ethnic, religious and linguistic identities. Insulting the state is done by making state institutions unaccountable or by suing journalists because they did not report the slogans chanted at the rallies they were covering. The state image is undermined by not taking any effective action to deal with the suspicious deaths of the country's president and a high level military commander in an aircraft crash. Undermining the image and prestige of the security forces is possible by incarcerating an innocent person based on weak accusations, by exonerating a police officer who killed a young person, by shooting a person who argues with the police or by beating an individual to death in the park.

We may protect this country, our nation, our institutions, our values and our constitution by honorable actions, not by promulgating laws. Before making new laws, we must go through a transformation to embrace the contemporary civil and humane standards. Making contemporary laws requires a certain level of perception. We have to take the necessary steps to attain this level of perception, instead of resorting to legal mechanisms like Article 301. This is the reality that this age presents to us.

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