Sunday, January 19, 2014

Istanbul the Beautiful City in Flux

Just got back from a trip to the beautiful, complicated, one and only Istanbul.  I can't even believe that this is the same city that we see in the news having violent protests.  Somehow the images I see in the newspapers do not sync up with the magical place I spent time exploring for a week.  But it's true.  This city is a paradox of modernism wrapped in old traditions, a city trying to move forward in modernity and status, and still getting tangled up with old ways of dealing with conflict.

Turkey has a rapidly growing economy and is now considered an industrialized country, which is a fairly new development.  Things are on the up and up in Istanbul, and it's very obvious to someone exploring it.  There are modern museums throughout, various restorations taking place all over, and even a newly opened and popular undersea rail link called the Marmaray. 

These and many other features all display the brightness of Turkey's future.  Somehow Istanbul pulls off the perfect balance of the old world with the new that no other city can with quite such ease.  To know that there is such vast history here that dates back to 8500 years ago is hard to comprehend.  Once you have been here, once you have seen it with your own eyes, you can't help but become a fan of what it stands for historically and what it appears to be striving for in its future.

But beneath this amazingly layered history and these contemporary developments, there is a quiet but noticeable undertone of conflict.  Men with guns stand at the ready while you make your way to Topkapi Palace.  In another section of Istanbul you drive past guards in bulletproof glass boxes with large rifles in hand.  It's a big whiff of reality after losing yourself in the allure of the Hagia Sophia, the heady smells of the Spice Bazaar, and the sounds of the awe-inspiring ocean.  

Some things will need to change if it wants to truly become modern by the global society standards of today.  The protests that keep popping up are not good for the reputation of a city that should be in the news for so many better reasons.  But of course, the protests are what make the news, which is fair.  Hopefully with all the positive growth this city is having, they will make the time to focus on evolving their politics in important ways as well.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Two Blogs

Check out these blogs:


Human Rights Journal

Both have thought provoking up and coming writers covering important political issues that will keep you up to date.

Give 'em some love!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Help You Help Me

Lets look at some statistics about the most recent natural disaster that has taken place, known as Typhoon Haiyan.  The Philippine typhoon that hit November 8 has racked up a current death toll of almost 6,166, while 1,785 have still not been found.  Adding to this, almost 29,000 people have suffered injuries from the typhoon, 4 million people have been displaced from their homes, and 14 million Filipinos were impacted in some way.  The Philippine government has said that it is feeding 1.4 million people a day. 

Although the government is being lauded for not doing more, it is still difficult to find blame when it comes to natural disasters of this level.  When it comes down to it, there is no one that can be directly blamed when people die in this manner, there is only so much anyone can do except try to prepare for an event of this kind.  The number of deaths that are being caused by these natural disasters are frightening.

Eight weeks after their death, the victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan are just now being buried because, as Tacloban City authorities put it, there has been a lack of technical personnel as well as bad weather in the form of non-stop rain.  This has greatly slowed down their ability to identify bodies.  The burial process is expected to take about five days more because of this, and still many of the bodies have not been claimed or identified by any family members.

As Filipino-American columnist for the Guardian Juanita Salvador-Burris also pointed out, it hasn’t helped that old rules created by the United States Congress back in the 1950’s has drawn out the process of getting extremely necessary humanitarian aid relief over to millions of desperate Filipinos.  These outdated laws and regulations have the potential to cause real harm and perhaps even cause unnecessary death.  With 4 million people having lost their homes because of the typhoon, the columnist is right in saying that there is no excuse for any amount of red tape when it comes to responding to a disaster such as this.  This is when red tape should be cut and thrown in the wastebasket with haste.  Anything less than such a reaction should be seen as careless.

If this were a natural disaster that had occurred in the United States, there would be no questions asked and protocol would be thrown to the wayside if it were becoming an obstacle.  As citizens of the world all sharing one globe, the same thing should be done for citizens of any country irrespective of any other factors.   These are the most important times to show our mutual respect to one another, when others are facing times of crisis.  Perhaps the often recited but not as often practiced saying “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” should be put into practice in this case.   The saying is appropriately the foundation of many of the ethical systems that societies are built upon.  The United States is allegedly one of these societies, so it seems that there is no better time like the present for the U.S. to dust off this proverb and transform it from an antiquated and empty saying that has been left in the past into one that can be practically applied today.