Introducing Saf and Dobra: On a love-hate relationship with Türkiye


Sometimes I feel like this troupe of explorers when I am observing my husband struggle with his clearly conflicting emotions about his country of origin (image thanks to U Wisconsin Alumni at this link)

Today I met two new puppets, Saf and Dobra.  Saf is an idealist, myopic in her micro moment, focused on her love of her homeland.  Dobra, on the other hand, is more like Karagoz- an outspoken agent provocateur who stands up loudly and proudly when it comes to what her homeland can include and/or does horribly.  This is the story of why I think they showed up today.

“In Turkey, human life has no value.”

Of course, this is not a blanket statement, as I see it.  But, I have been hearing M. say this more and more recently.

And it alarms me.  It is not the only way he feels about Turkey, of course, but it alarms me.

It seems to come from some deep place.

Most recently, it has related to the deaths of young Kurdish smugglers and Turkish military conscripts alike – but has also related to what we believe is the indiscriminate use and/or testing of major psychotropic medications (and the concomitant major side effects that last forever) on young people without any regulation whatsoever.

But it is more than that too.  It relates to family expectations, cultural traditions and the dark (in the metaphorical sense) underbelly of Turkish ways that are about things more subtle and less obscene than what we often hear about or talk about here at slowly-by-slowly re: M.’s country of birth.  Those topics generally include culture-driven ways of relating, the incessant red tape of everyday life, the embrace of U.S. values and products that lead to a recherche du temps perdu and on a more positive note, more enduring cultural traditions that are not very controversial.

This is a different reality than what I will classify as the mixed feelings of malaise that some Turkish American expats (and indeed some Turks in Turkey) I know feel in response to what is widely viewed as the AKP (current ruling party) intentions to move from a Kemalist-style secularism towards a lifestyle such as that lived in the Islamic Republic of Iran.  Those other, deeper, darker and more terrible things, such as the fear about the end of true secularism, are generally grouped as follows, in no particular order:  decreasing identity of the nation as a secular state due to incrementalism on the part of the AKP, so called “honor killings” of young women in relation to sexual activity and/or sexual assault, debates about whether the Armenian genocide should be named as such or just what it was that leads people to debate the use of that term in the first place, debates about whether the treatment of Kurdish people can be classified as ethnic (and other) oppression or not and the prevalence of intimate partner violence – especially violence against women in Turkey.   Without getting more specific, as I am afraid the  Turkish censors will be after me and my readers will run like scared fish into a bait ball, suffice it to say that M. has mixed love-hate feelings about his country of origin as well as this, his country of choice.  It seems more than fair – and obvious – to say that we could make a quite similar list about the United States – and this is the subject of much discussion in our home. By now, Dobra is jumping up and down, yelling at me to make a post each about each of these things I have mentioned – just to watch my language so the censors don’t get me so that I can keep using my voice.

No large nation-place is ideal.  Sometimes I think that Saf is ingenue-puppet who longs for an idealized Turkish quiet life in Anatolia.  While I know more about reality than that ingenue-puppet, who came to introduce herself to me today (her name means naive, pure, clean, etc.), she is still a part of the puppet troupe that is helping me figure out this aspect of my cross-cultural roadtrip called this Turkish-American marriage.  She tells me, “take care, m’lady, not to write about these deep dark things, they will give people the wrong idea of Türkiye .”

English: Map of the number of Turkish people i...

All my life I have sought out a different type of life with what at times might be referred to as a vengeance.  I have tried to learn and grow my brain beyond the myopia that is rampant in the U.S. My career is central to this effort.  Now, here I am with a very different partner who is also a Turkish American – and I find that he has very strong negative feelings about his home country that range in the love-sad-hate-love spectrum depending on the topic.  This has challenged me a lot and made me more of a critical thinker.  I am not quite clear enough to write more on it, but wanted to plant these first seeds now, since Saf came to introduce herself, shyly, today and as Dobra blew in like a hurricane, to yell her introductions from across the room.

Today, they named themselves, at least, so that is a start.  So, while Saf will continue to wax lyrical about all things Türkiye that have come into her life, we’ll see how Dobra manages this.

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This entry was posted in Introducing the Karagöz puppets, On writing about my life with the Karagöz puppets, Turkish-American Matters and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Introducing Saf and Dobra: On a love-hate relationship with Türkiye

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  2. sumanyav says:

    I think having a variety of emotions towards your country ( or indeed anything), ranging from love to hate and everything in between, actually reflects a passion. Only passion can elicit extreme loyalty, indignation and outrage all at the same time.

  3. Liz Cameron says:

    I think this is a brilliant re-frame, thank you for putting it into words.

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