On the flight from New York to Istanbul, I read an elegant novella, The Reluctant Fundamentalist:
Possibly this was due to my state of mind, but it seemed to me that America, too, was increasingly giving itself over to a dangerous nostalgia at that time. There was something undeniably retro about the flags and uniforms, about generals addressing cameras in war rooms and newspaper headlines featuring such words as duty and honor. I had always thought of America as a nation that looked forward; for the first time I was struck by its determination to look back. Living in New York was suddenly like living in a film about the Second World War; I, a foreigner, found myself staring out at a set that ought to be viewed not in Technicolor but in grainy black and white... I felt treacherous for wondering whether that era was fictitious, and whether––if it could indeed be animated––it contained a part written for someone like me. (p. 114-15)
While I was waiting to board, I watched the news out of the corner of my eye: The bombings in Boston, men argued, had to be the work of a foreign plot, there was no way that these two suspects could have managed this on their own. I wondered, waiting there, at how easily we slip into the role of victim. And I thought, I remember thinking, that it was only the Turks who believed so easily in conspiracy theories.


I wake a little before dawn on the 1st of May. In the hour before the breeze begins to scatter the water, the Bosphorus mirrors the world staring down on it: Bridge, fishing boats, gulls chasing each other. On the shores, the plane trees and oaks have all donned their spring green. I've returned to a city draped in verdant robes. Walking home from the ferry yesterday, I thought to myself, This is a city whose beauty still exceeds our capacity to diminish it. It is also a city of increasing control: May Day demonstrations have been banned by the Governor of Istanbul; in order to enforce the ban, they have shut down most of the public transportation in the city (see here). What makes this city? My aunt turns to me last night and says, Did you hear? Erdoğan was talking about the metro, about how construction was stopped for a couple of pots, that's what's been holding up all of this construction. Can you believe this? If it were up to him, he'd turn the entire peninsula over, bulldoze the whole thing. She's talking about the excavations at Yenikapı, where the discovery of a Byzantine port––with some ships dating back well before––has slowed the completion of the Marmaray line linking the city's two shores. Yesterday on the train home, I caught a glimpse of a news story in Bugün, the rebuilt Taksim Barracks will indeed be a shopping center, despite earlier denials that the barracks would be in keeping with their historical nature. Everything is altüst, topsy turvy. What Yeats wrote, the center cannot hold.


What links these two, I think, is this question: Who becomes able to tell the stories which shape the world? What capacity is there to tell something different? I've returned home to a city of red-tile roofs and fresh green. Soon enough, we'll find ourselves on the cusp of summer, that heavy heat of car horns and body odor, but not yet. For now, I'm still surprised by the richness of the light here, still able to be entranced. Los Angeles struck me as a city with too few people for its size; dwarfed by its infrastructural dreams. Istanbul? Home, for now, it's possible to dream.


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