Thursday, February 21, 2008


I was speaking with an officer from the Turkish Air Force the other day, and the discussion turned to history. He used the words "us" and "we" to describe Turks ("We were strong") and things Turks had done ("We controlled this region")... and it hit me, he was talking about the 11th Century.

That sort of blew my mind.

He used the word "us" as if he were discussing a soccer (excuse me, football) team that he was personally on. The degree to which he explicitly identified with things that happened almost a thousand years ago is so alien to my way of thinking (and, I think, to American culture). We don't even talk about the American Revolution that way (do we?), and it was less than 250 years ago. Maybe it's just me, but I don't think of the American Revolutionaries or Pioneers as "we." The Founding Fathers did stuff, the settlers went out west, the North fought the South in the civil war (OK, maybe some Southerners talk about the Civil War in terms of we & us - but that wasn't very long ago). But I wouldn't say "We fought the British, and then we moved out west to settle Kansas..."

Anyway, I'm not saying one way is right or better than the other. Just that it's two very different ways of looking at the world and at history. And I think it's important to understand how deeply, consistently, personally and unconsciously people from that part of the world identify with the events of history.


Kim said...

People in Holland are very much the same way. My guess is that Americans are in the minority - perhaps in part because we have such a blended history.

Gabe said...

Your observation rings true. Possibly why its hard to understand all the fighting in some places