Do you remember the yellow flag with the rattlesnake coiled and ready to strike on it? American general and statesman Christopher Gadsden designed it in 1775. In the original, the word "don't" doesn't have an apostrophe, and it is all in capital letters. The Gadsden Flag had a strong symbolism then. It was a warning to those colonialists in England from the new Americans: Don't step on us; don't try to take advantage of our new country. We are ready to strike.
When I saw the "S-word" attributed to the European Parliament President Martin Schulz prominently (Should I say proudly?) displayed on the Deutsche Welle website last week, the only picture that flashed in front of me was that rattlesnake flag. The headline had all the Western stereotypes of Turkey and its combative attitude toward the country summarized:
"Hard-line President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan risks losing Turkey's lucrative customs union with the EU, its main trading partner. European Parliament chief Martin Schulz has said economic sanctions are being considered."
The stick and carrots with which we are so familiar in Turkey over the last 50 years are in the sentence, essentially saying: We will do commerce with you if you are pliant boys and girls; otherwise we will punish you.
It could be that this is an acceptable condition for those remnants of the Kemalist's secular-positivist military-civilian tutelary corporatist regime of yesteryears and the cronies of the Gülen cult. One of them was even telling us that "a Turkey-EU breakup is on the cards" and Turkey is currently risking a departure from the Council of Europe and European Court of Human Rights.
Those cultists may be good at reading cards and minds, but the reality is that Turkey is not departing from the ECHR or the CE. Full membership in the EU is the Turkish government's declared policy objective. I for one think that Turkey has nothing to gain economically or politically by furthering the ties with Europe more than a customs union; but the idea of "being a part of Europe" is good for the future. The political reforms and making them part of the law of the land will prevent Turkey's stumbling back to the dark ages of the denial of the existence Kurds and the rejection of ethnic and religious rights of people. That was the case before the 2002 revolution in Turkey. Those were the policies of the Kemalist one-party regime in Turkey as well as the foundation of the constitutions erected by three military interventions.
The revolution I mentioned, supported by consecutive general elections and various referenda and one popular resistance against the Gülen cultists' military putsch, is now something like the 13 colonies' self-assertiveness against the tyranny of Britain. People with a newly found dignity and pride do not much enjoy the idea of being treaded upon. Try to see your moral supremacy or the lack thereof when you erect stonewalls reinforced with razor wires against Syrian refuges while the Turkish people host 3 million of them. Oh, they had 170,000 babies last year, no thanks to you.
So behave yourself and DONT TREAD ON ME (all capital, no apostrophe, and no apology.)
About the author
Hakkı Öcal is an award-winning journalist. He currently serves as academic at Ibn Haldun University.