The pendulum is swinging back

In my Today’s Zaman piece, “Silence is golden” (May 8, 2012), I »»

In my Today’s Zaman piece, “Silence is golden” (May 8, 2012), I mentioned a book by Adam Hamilton that deals with political, moral and religious issues that divide America as a nation. Speaking honestly, this issue to some degree also divides Turkey. Let me explain further…

With the American presidential election coming up in November I have been thinking about to what degree faith should influence politics. Depending on with whom you talk, you hear varying opinions. It would be interesting to hear from Today’s Zaman readers what your opinion is on this topic.

In Hamilton’s book, “Seeing Gray: Where Faith and Politics Meet,” the author deals with three primary ways of thinking about and practicing ethics. Some people have very strong opinions that things should be a certain way and others say that they should not be this way at all. I wonder: Is there any room for a middle way? You can read the article referred to above to learn more about Hamilton’s three ideas on ethics and how they influence people’s worldviews. I do find it interesting that the Republic of Turkey was established as a secular government, which greatly differed from the Ottoman Empire. Any visitor to Turkey will notice, nevertheless, that the religion of Islam has a pivotal role in the life and character of the nation. The same is said about the United States. After all, even the American coins and bills have written on them “In God we trust.” Today, people of faith are increasingly vocal their concerns over issues such as abortion, death penalty, gay marriage, stem cell research and freedom of religious expression in schools. Everyone should have the right to express their opinions.

Visitors to Turkey are fascinated with the country as it reflects both European and Asian influences and identities. You often hear it said about Turkey that Turkey is a bridge between the two continents. This is true. But the nation, like anywhere else, faces the challenge of serving its citizens and the citizens vary in their views. For example, in a report titled “A Guide to Understanding Turkey” conducted by İpsos KPMG in 2010, the findings broke down the population into the following categories based on 16,000 participants in 34 provinces (with some respondents not fitting into a category):

City dwellers with a modern outlook: 14 percent

 City dwellers with a traditional outlook: 30 percent

 Rural dwellers who defend the status quo: 20 percent

Rural dwellers who are not aligned with any ideology: 23 percent

More than ever before in America a similar situation is happening to what Ipsos KPMG has described for Turkey; and the nation in some respect is divided on many domestic issues. As far as international issues, generally speaking, the majority of Americans are of the same mind – “Bring our soldiers home!”

As a teenager in the 1960s I saw American society begin to shift to the left and then in the 1970s and 1980s it seems to have shifted more to the right. The pendulum swing in the 1960s was one way and by the 1990s a reverse pendulum swing occurred. As I traveled around America this past month and listened to people and their ideas, I heard many express concern that they did not believe they clearly fit either side -- left (liberal) or right (conservative). This is not to say that on either side there is not good. There is good on the right and on the left. Many Americans, including me, believe that somewhere in the middle one finds the balance.

I wonder if Turks can relate to what is happening in America as situations unfold in Turkey.

Don’t misunderstand what I am trying to say, but it is true that often people -- whether they are far left or far right -- tend to practice their faith and live according to their ethical code, engaging culture and life in very black and white terms. Our values and truths that we embrace shape our worldview and carry over into our daily life and decisions. We are witnessing the pendulum reverse its swing as it is doing in many nations around the world.

“Politics is the process of determining who gets what when and how.” –Adam Hamilton, referring to Harold Lasswell’s famous definition of politics

Note: Charlotte McPherson is the author of “Culture Smart: Turkey” 2005. Please keep your questions and observations coming: I want to ensure this column is a help to you, Today’s Zaman’s readers. Email: [email protected]