Juxtapose

We sat at a beachside café that night, sipping raki under a dark sky, clouds known only by the disappearance of the stars they cover then reveal again, murky in their invisible insistence. These are the young philosophers, studying for doctorates or teaching in Istanbul. Just 800 meters or so from the brightly lit morbidity of the hotel dinner of speakers, hosts and the occasional sycophant, these drunken and cheap friends speak abstractly about philosophy but particularly about sex, drugs and politics.“If you want sex to be perfect you’ve failed somehow.” “My kids don’t know Rembrandt so I begin the lessons with porn. You have to get their attention, and work up.”Hillary Clinton is a fascist.” They’ve deemed themselves “The Parallel,” the naughty underbelly of intellectualism here, Assos, as to not let the stench of the academic rigor mortis reach them too soon. Then, though, the news fell swiftly down when one Englishman with wifi announced that an attack had killed 20 at the airport. “20 now, 50 tomorrow,” someone uttered between sips. People undug their previously buried phones to connect to the terror, watched the facts unfold with a strengthening signal, and began to call friends and relatives. As we sat in this deadened night, of skinny dips and playful abstractions, the absurdity of our place descending on us with no remorse. Like a brutal unraveling, it seemed the hope and humor, the optimism of centuries of history and thought on this land, the calm of a black sea at our feet evolved into horror and guilt, guilt for a distance sought by coming here, by not being there, and horror in knowing such escapism was long impossible, that someone had been maimed and others might still be hiding, crouched listening to the death seeking them. There was nowhere to run, here. Even if you wanted to, it would be bold and you would be a bold coward. Who was traveling today, people asked themselves. Among the day’s travelers were classmates, cousins, brothers, a daughter. I could not help but ask what this group of people would do, what was their permanent, if unexpected, responsibility. Is it not the burden of the intellectual, this group of countrymen and educators, to stand for justice and intelligence, expression, liberty? It is. Yet, they do not budge. They go on, fearful, uncompelled by their position — a fight is not what they chose. It is for someone else. “Just when you being to feel settled, it happens again,” one woman remarks. “And the worst part is, we are no longer surprised,” the man next to her said. Across from him, a philosophy of art teacher remarks that his brother was hoping to become a journalist and his family implores him to choose more carefully, reminding him of the contemporary risk of such a radical endeavor. “It is a radical thing to do in Turkey,” he said. But then, I asked, who else will do it? Are our memories so short? Have we forgotten the black night of tyranny and how silently it ruins? Will we not demand of ourselves a declaration of opposition? Injustice has a clever way of soundlessly destroying its threats. Then, reluctant to heed its warnings, just rubble will be left and it is much harder to build than to destroy. At last, when the rubble has settled and the haze of its dust has obscured the night’s sky, justice will call in our debts then, and we will pay with blood or, worse still, our liberty.

My mother calls. I answer with the solemn knowledge that my brother is in the airport. He was leaving for New York today. “It’s all ruined,” she said. “They ruined it. It’s ruined.”

Here I am, between worlds.