I watched an interesting program on the history of Istanbul (which started life as a tiny Greek fishing village), formerly known as Constantinople and, before that, Byzantium. Few, if any, cities have a more tumultuous history.
One interesting fact glaringly obvious from this history—which I probably knew, but ignored—is that Christianity is riven just as Islam is, i.e.. the ancient strife between Roman and Greek arms of the religion. They might not kill each other as much as Sunnis and Shiites, but the disagreements run just as deep. Constantinople competed with Rome to be able to plunder people foolish enough to believe in tales spun from ancient pagan rites. Each claimed to be the true home of Christianity and killed each other to prove it…just like competing arms of Islam.
Perhaps, this is one more bit of proof that there is no god, because all religion is invented, refined, and manipulated by humans. If I were god (ha, that would be something and stuff would change! ), I would certainly want a say in how I was worshipped and would not brook disagreements amongst squabbling earthlings.
Have you noticed that the word “terrorist” has become the go-to, all-purpose title to hang onto anyone a politician or leader feels should be maligned. The only threat is to the politician’s own reputation, so an appropriate amount of mud must be slung to fool the masses.
A current case in point is the leader of Turkey. Some citizens are complaining about the last trees in the one remaining park in Istanbul being cut down to make way for a Jewish-owned (irrelevant, but interesting fact) shopping center. The prime minister has called these citizens “terrorists” and “foreign agitators”. Of course, foreign media are also criticized for making him look bad, when they report what is actually happening and explain the true reason for civil unrest in a country he wants to rule with an iron hand.
His reaction displays typical signs of a paranoid dictator...or an insecure elected politician.
I frequently patronize a fruit and vegetable shop owned by a small Turk. He's one of the friendliest and nicest people I know. I consider him a friend. His face lights up each time I enter his shop and not because he knows that his daily turnover will soar.
He knows my likes and dislikes. He refuses to sell me bad quality, even if something is on display. He knows that I demand to know origins of anything I buy and is proud to source the best products. He will often lower the price, if I wince at the cost of some exotic fruit flown in from afar. If I mention dissatisfaction with something that I have previously bought (occasionally an avocado will be over-ripe), he is clearly pained. He does not charge for the next one or throws in one for free. He gives me only the freshest items from the his walk-in refrigerator, and not items available to the general public.
His reputation has spread far and wide. Customers drive long distances, passing other similar shops, to patronize his shop. It has nothing to do with race.
He knows that I am problably the only customer that has bothered to learn the history of his country and mentions current events, which I have spotted in my scan of daily headlines. He's proud to explain some events or pained by others. He's happy to live in Germany and grateful for the opportunity to make a good living, but is proud of his heritage. He pays back by offering good quality and friendly service (a lesson many German shops could learn).
He knows that I explained the significance of Gallipoli to his daughter, before her trip to Australia. She had grown up in Germany and has less connection to the country of her parents. It took an American to explain the unfortunate and enduring connection between Turkey and Australia to a girl that grew up in Germany.
He wants to show me his hometown, Istanbul, and I want to see it. I need a local guide to help me wander the vast Great Bazaar without getting lost, tempted, or ripped off. I also need a guide to show me the architectural magnificence of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, formerly known as the Cathedral of St. Sophia (the Greeks and the Turks seem to have "issues" lasting several millennium). This has nothing to do with religion; both are testimony to man's creative genius and talent.
Cultural diversity makes my life more interesting. As much as I like Germany, I would not enjoy living in a town peopled by only one race or nationality. After all, variety is life...
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.