Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Being an American in Turkey

When I was in high school I read that one of my favorite authors, the brilliant James Baldwin, had spent many years off and on in Turkey and completed some of his works there. His novel, "Another Country," is datelined "Istanbul, Dec 10, 1961" and "Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone" was largely written in the city in 1968. Of course, many know Baldwin's moving "Go Tell it on the Mountain," the heartfelt "Nobody Knows My Name," and provocative "Fire Next Time."

With President Obama's recent visit to Turkey, I could not help to remember James Baldwin's time there as an escape from the oppressive laws of the United States in the early 60's. I remember a story he told where kids would just stare at him in complete amazement and even touch his skin and hair.

The kids' reactions were not offensive to Baldwin in the least; he realized that the novelty of his skin and hair was intriguing for these kids, not to mention his very large intense penetrating eyes. They came to him. He was not ostracized in Turkey. This rather sensitive slight man, yet intensely passionate author felt quite safe and comfortable there. He felt as if he could "breathe."

May God Bless the nation of Turkey and its people, the Kurds included.

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