Until we accept that societies are shaped by the contribution of all members, rather than conflict between warring factions, our democracy itself is suspect
Çınar KİPER In 1776, an American farmer penned the line "all men are created equal" in the famous preamble to the American Declaration of Independence. Later signed by several other rich, white Americans, the declaration set an important precedent for the newborn nation: Namely, that all men were in fact created equal, unless they were black, or poor, or **** or happened to be a woman. This American political heritage evolved over the next two centuries, with some people becoming more equal than others (African-Americans, Reconstruction era, 1865-1877) and others less (drunks, Prohibition era, 1920-1933). Today, the modern American lives in a nation that prides itself on the diversity of races, creeds and restaurant varieties.
This year alone, we witnessed a candidate selection process that pitted a white woman against a black man, so one can go on to possibly lose an election to the more historically reliable white male nominee. If the Democratic primaries have taught us anything, it is OK for an American to be a woman, or black, or **** or a drunk, just as long as they talk and behave like a straight, rich, white male.
Myth of the ideal Kemalist:
Uncritical electors, people who vote by perceptions of personality rather than any real politics, pick candidates they think resemble themselves. And the lucky candidate, who won your vote because he seemed like someone you'd want to "have a beer with," must therefore share the complete set of your views.
Supposedly, contradicting ideas can't occupy the same mind and people aren't allowed to mix and match beliefs: Pro-environment? Must also be against the Iraq war. Wear a headscarf? Must long for Shariah law. Have a penis? You have no self-control. Yet it was F. Scott Fitzgerald who once said, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."
Here, in a society cleverly cleaved in two, this division lumps people into one of two very specific "ideals." But the ideal Kemalist, like the ideal Christian or the ideal virtue, is an elusive figure based more on myth than something one might encounter.
The �State� tells us the ideal citizen is the textbook Kemalist. Literally textbook, pick up a grade-school one and you see illustrations of stern mid-level bureaucrats in earth-tone suits or drawings of busy female teachers at the chalkboard in "liberated" dress/blouse combos, all enjoying the marvels of the Latin alphabet. Outward appearance has been used as a billboard by republicans just as much as by the "perfume equals prostitute" crowd. Fashion is just one of many seemingly innocuous yet blatantly political messages that restrict tolerance by establishing "us" and "them," and by extension, diversity.
The diversity within:
But in the 21st century, diversity has become the cause célèbre: Many people hold beliefs that can no longer comfortably fit into any one ideological mold. With television, the Internet and cheap travel, people are now exposed to more variety than ever before, and are beginning to identify themselves as holding multiple, previously exclusive views. But as a nation we are just not yet comfortable with the idea of micro-identity; we still cling to beliefs in accordance with our group rather than beliefs that define us.
From politics, to society, back to politics; in the 21st century, politics are no longer "all or nothing." When society is diverse enough that candidates have to compromise to remain viable and electors vote based on individual stances over ideological associations, you wind up with a political system not unlike the current American one, where no one is really happy with any of the options but everyone votes for the person they dislike the least. Jefferson could not have anticipated how his democracy turned out, but then again, the only people who voted during his time where rich, white, land-owning men.
Here, old ways die hard and now many want the ruling party shut down because of a series of assumptions about the government's identity. Barring a discussion on how jurisprudence cannot convict someone for crimes they have yet to commit, it is simply democratically nonsensical to rely on backdoor channels just because you weren't able to secure victory for your side, especially if your objection to the winner is you don't trust the people in it. In a real democracy, nobody is the enemy; the side that offers the best solutions to today's problems will win.
Contribution, not conflict:
Anyone who has been in America over the past eight years will have witnessed widespread anti-Bush protests; from the war, to spying on citizens, from restrictions on civil liberties, to attempts to blur the separation of church and state, there are many reasons Americans are displeased, and many have protested or campaigned against. And when you think of the 2000 election, the majority didn't really vote for Bush either, yet everybody has waited their turn till November 2008.
We seem to not be able to harbor the patience of the people who not only invented fast food, but also the drive-thru window to get to it faster. We are unable to tolerate the "other," but until we accept that societies are shaped by the contribution of all members, rather than conflict between warring factions, our democracy itself is suspect. Mustafa Kemal could not have anticipated how his democracy turned out, but then again, the only people who voted during his time were Kemalists.