(Originally published under the title, "Deciphering Election Results in One Headline #Turkishelections2018.")
There are probably thousands of different reasons to explain the Turkish love affair with Turkishness, including a lack of self-confidence, the loss of an empire, defeat against non-Turkish, non-Muslim major powers, and a century-long failure to make any sign of success - from the economy to sports. All of this makes a good recipe a collective inferiority complex in an otherwise proud nation. The same recipe tconcocted in so many other underachieving countries in different times and places. Turks may have gone to an extreme, though.
There has hardly been a day when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has not reminded his nation of how big and powerful Turkey is. In return for the flattery he has won much applause and enough votes to further consolidate his power, and the transaction is still in progress. Few Turks question why they should be reminded of their greatness everyday. Does Bill Gates tell everyone, everyday, that he is a rich man? Does he need to? Why would someone need to tell everyone that he is big, rich and powerful?
But it sells in Turkey. The nation, with its splendid 6.5 years of average schooling, an imperial past, a longing for the return of that imperial past, and a collective feeling of Turkish-Sunni supremacy, has a big enough appetite to buy more, as evinced by headlines…
One such headline, in Hürriyet, Turkey's biggest daily newspaper, read: "Turks put their mark on the World Cup Final game!" One might be captured by the headline, knowing that, let alone the final game, the Turks did not even qualify to compete in the tournament. Curious to know how the Turks might have put their mark on the final game, one might click on the bait. Curious… Curious… Where is the Turkish mark on the final game? Did an ethnically Turkish player on the French or Croatian team score? Was the referee Turkish? Was the trophy physically made in Turkey? Was it the Turks who comprised the biggest number of viewers in the French-Croatian game? How else could the Turks have made their mark? Not a clue … until you read that there was a Turkish fan in the audience who waved the flag of Ankaragücü, a newcomer to the Turkish Super League. One man, waving one flag, and that's how the Turks "put their mark" on the final game.
This story reminded this author of a script on the walls of a tavern on a Greek island. In Turkish, it read: "The Turks are everywhere!" Some proud Turk must have thought it was a good reason to be physically on a Greek island. We are a big, proud nation. We can travel as far as the Greek islands, less than an hour's ferry ride from Anatolia. Fantastic!
We lost an empire, our national team did not even qualify for this year's World Cup, but we still put our mark on the final game.