Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What a misused word "Freedom" is...


Signing of the declaration of indepence

It appears that numerous people act as if they know everything under the sun, and anyone who has a mouth, has got something to say about "freedom". Words such as "patriotism, freedom, and safety" are floating around as if in a sea of word symphony without much sense. We're all patriotic, we all want to be free. What does that mean exactly? Every time the word freedom is used, I must ask for the user's particular definition. It's like a piece of worn out gum everyone has been chewing.

Before defining this simple word that we've been accustomed to hear numerous times a day, not just on media, but from ordinary citizens, friends, or even out of the mouths of the babes-as the saying goes, let me briefly introduce some other words that we're not so familiar with as far as the experience goes.

The first word I'm going to introduce you is "monarchy". We might have heard of it in school once upon a time in a boring history class of bygone eras, or had swooning feelings inside if the name of a certain monarch whether a prince or princess mentioned: the word itself in its true meaning is far more dominating than what that simple dreamy swoon is making you feel.

Monarchy is generally defined as a nation's ruler or head of state usually by hereditary right. But all in all, every head of the state is a monarch, whether a prime minister, or a president for a time. Because when the time of decision comes, all boils down to one person. 2000 years ago, it was only one power that counted in the western world: Rome. Rome became the purest, most absolute monarchy the world had ever seen. All power, theory and usually in practice were in the hands of the emperor. He was a god on earth whose task it was to rule and to defend the empire. The duty of his subjects on the other hand was to obey and to pay back taxes. The idea that there might be any limit the emperor could do or that others should have a say in what got done was simply inconceivable. One of the earliest examples of direct challenges to the monarchy was Magna Carta issued on June 15th, 1215 requiring the King to proclaim certain liberties, and accept that his will was not arbitrary.

Why then are we so willing to hand out and do away with our existing liberties? Does no one read history?

Most often in our society, we react as opposed to observe, and identify whatever the current issue is that's boiling the public's blood. If there is a shooting in the hands of a maniac, we decide to disarm the entire nation, wanting to take away the 2nd Amendment: the right to bear arms.
Or that quoting the recent news in Turkey that a university dean, a gigantic ass bozo who had the gull to say that "women were as guilty as men if they were raped. Because wearing low-cut dresses triggers sexual desire in men thus may cause sexual abuse and rape and consequently women are as guilty for having been raped". Reading this piece of garbage made all my nerves stand up and anger me so much that I don't remember having felt this furious and exacerbated in many many years! Now, I will continue with the aforementioned "sorry-excuse for a man's (with a PhD and a social standing as a university Dean)" definition of acceptable dress code - anything other than those mentioned would subsequently become the cause for "your" rape (which should include all the women in my acquaintance Turkish, American, or European):

"All parts of a woman's body including her feet should be covered except her hands and her face. Should it evoke provocation, the face too must be covered (if you're young and have average looks I suppose then all females within their puberty years thereon should not show their faces)."
At this point I have to tell you that my heart is beating a 100 miles an hour, and my shoulder length hair is standing on end because I'm so angry! And this jerk-wad continues that "the heaven is forbidden for a woman who wears perfume!" What?? Does it mean that if I smell good, I'm destined for hell? What should a woman to do? Walk around with BO? Oh, but there is more:

Apparently, "a woman should NOT speak coyly, which is flirtatious" (in his definition). Then he goes on to say, "if all of these are NOT enough to protect her honor (I mean, despite having been covered head to toe, walking around with no pleasant smell, and you maybe reasonably good looking which may require you to cover your face as well-and if ALL THESE ARE STILL NOT ENOUGH TO KEEP THE RAPISTS AWAY FROM YOU - don't forget it's apparently your fault as well if you get raped, then he suggests the following), the woman should NOT be allowed to leave the house for her own safety". He tagged the word "safety" in the end, because apparently "it's her honor that is at stake." I have quite a few choice words I can say to this PhD *insert here the appropriate noun*.

Here's is what I think: Not a single religion should rule a country. It's the flaws in the human character, the fabric of our being - the good and evil always intertwined, that will deviate from the purpose or the norm of God's good will (happened in Rome where the emperor was God and religion all bundled in one neat package, happened in numerous religion ruled countries no names need be mentioned, and take a look at south America for other examples), and these exact flaws will defeat the purpose of any good will that a religion may extend to better the humanity. I will have to say to those who want to extend me their form of government; "thanks, but no thanks. Don't thread on me." Though we complain and whine at times, the American style democracy is still the best in the planet. Let's face it; there are so many different kinds, and races of people, different religions; not only do we co-exist, but we Americans love our country. What we have, our system, our form of democracy, our constitution with all its flaws, the way it had been written in 1777 works better than anything else existing in the world. Let's keep it that way.

It's not because religion in its purest form is bad. But it's a form of drug for most people one must be administered with its antidote: A mixture of reason and common sense. Though this antidote is free to all, it's as uncommon as gold or diamond. There are many people who use this to move the masses, and most in those masses like to follow and not think individually. People in their character have the good and bad intertwined; and those who nurture the bad aspects in them, usually use every tool available to them to master the masses and unfortunately, religion is a powerful tool for those because of its capacity to control the masses. History is full of examples from every religion and I don't need to give those examples to you here. Don't you dare to give me how your religion (I'm not talking about God here, he's the epitomy of everything perfect, but what I'm talking about is religion) is sooo incredibly pro-humanity, I can rebuttal every claim. Just try me...

Said that, such things as people trying to impose a change for their own gain, whether a group, a party, or religious bigotry always at bay ready to jump at you to break the individual freedoms. This holds true historically and for modern nations of today whether it’s America or Turkey. We alienate what’s different than the societal norm (see the example of educated bigot above), or what is different than what we personally believe is right thus in return REact to obliterate whatever that is and thus inadvertently eradicating certain liberties. Freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom to right to bear arms, freedom to wear what you want, freedom to exist... Freedom. What a misunderstood and misused word that is. If I had a penny - not even a nickel to put aside each time that word was used, I'd never have to work all my life. What is freedom anyway? Freedom is defined as the absence of interference with the sovereignty of an individual by the use of coercion or aggression. It’s a state of being free from government oppression. Well, if I had to put my “Dollars” aside for each “correct” use of the word, I’d probably have enough to buy a lunch at McDonald’s and maybe an additional happy meal.

One of the most fascinating historical characters in the human history is Alexander the Great. He simply stands out with his entire being. When he died at the age of 32 of typhoid in Babylon in 323 BC, he accomplished so much that most people wouldn't be able to come close to even if they had to live through numerous lifetimes. He became a legend in the mold of his personal hero Achilles: he was pronounced the “new master of the Universe” and the son of Egyptian god Amun. He was a wise man, he was a murderer, he was genius, he was psychopath, he was fearless; he was all these things, and perhaps, none of them as well. He was loved by his men (sometimes literally as it was part of the Greek, in his case, the Macedonian culture to have male and female partners), he brought East and West together from Macedonia to the corners of India. His deeds are just legendary! His pursuit for eternal glory came to an end in Babylon. At times, he was a womanizer like his father King Philippe (perhaps they should also coin a word him “MANizer”). He learned the wonders of Greek culture from Aristotle himself. Just like his hero Achilles, he wanted to have a short life with a burst of glory as opposed to a long quiet life. He started an 11 year conquest which would forever reshape the world as we know it today. He was extremely decisive, he was bold, and he was fearless to the point of being reckless. When he went against the Persian Emperor Darius he was outnumbered by a great army and one of the richest emperors in the world who had the financial means and the military prowess to fight him. Alexander loved that challenge.

His ability to adept was a sign that he was a great general as he knew how to easily overcome obstacles. He loved to use the weapon of fear as he was not an emperor who wanted to be loved; he wanted to be feared. He was ruthless to the nth degree. At the end of the day 50,000 Persians laid dead. His attitude towards defiance was “either join me or die” (do as I do, or get the heck out; sound familiar?) When he surrounded the Island of Tyre, they resisted. Alexander had one of his longest and most brutal sieges. At the end of seven grueling months, Alexander’s army was able to breach the city walls and seven thousand Tyreans were killed, 30,000 were sold into slavery. To make a point to other city states which might resist, he had two thousand Tyrean fighters crucified! When he was done, he had his men’s blood lust run loose and virtually every male in the city had been killed.

He had a very dark side in him; he manifested some of the worst traits of humanity. When he moved onto his next project, he wanted to capture Gaza. Gaza governor Bacus was resistant and defiant. He had the governor Bacus of Gaza killed for his defiance; he had him tied with ropes and dragged him around the city behind a running horse till he died. This of course was a scene from Homer’s Iliad where Achilles ties his arch rival Hector the same way and runs through the city, however Hector was already dead in that scene. Alexander had a very dark side indeed which permeated, blended with him that became the fabric that he was; he refined the art of brutality to the highest level humanly or inhumanly possible. Ironically, in many cases that is what contributed his success.

On another incident he speared Cleitus killing him who served under his father and also saved Alexander’s life in battle who was a Macedonian noble that publicly denounced him. He was his best friend. Alexander was in one of his drunken binges where he was shouting out that his deeds as an emperor was greater than his father Philippe’s, and after listening to this ranting silently, Cleitus shouted at him saying “all your glory is due to your father!" at which time Alexander grabbed a spear from one of the guards and killed his friend Cleitus instantly. Alexander mourned Cleitus’ loss excessively, but that obviously didn’t stop his temper to begin with. He had Callisthenes executed who was a Greek historian, one he took along to his campaign to record the history in the making (first embedded journalist). He was his former teacher, because he disagreed with him, Alexander had him tortured, imprisoned and of course killed. Alexander was a man of his own time. He was the ultimate predator. In fact, He loved going to hunting lions unarmed!

When he went into the eastern most part of the Persian Empire, he reaches to Hindu-Kusch Mountains with his 30,000 men army. The mountains were 20,000 feet high at some points; there was freezing rain, and snow at times, elevation itself was a killer and some passes were so narrow, the army had to go in a single file the length of them reaching up to 10 miles! Who would follow such a man to such a crazy expedition? His men did, as they had a very tight bond with him. Alexander had an iron determination. His army was willing to do whatever he asked them to do. He was a megalomaniac. He demanded an all consuming control of his men since he also got that from the public and people he conquered.

Though this one man’s absolute freedom made him into the historical figure he is, it also encompassed the freedoms of everyone else on his destructive path.

Here’s another historical figure; Caligula, one of my devious favorites. Not because I like him, but because you can’t ignore him; he just sticks out like a sore thumb out of history. He was born as Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus and was known as Caligula; born in 12 AD and died in 41 AD (he was 28 when at the time of his death). Though he was moderate and noble for the first two years of his rule, after this period of time, he showed his cruelty, sexual perversity, extravagance, and overbearing insanity and was a complete tyrant; he managed to fit four wives, many male and female lovers into his short life time. He was self absorbed, killed on a whim, killed for amusement, was a very angry person, and overly indulged himself with spending and sex. Slept with other men's wives, and bragged about it, had incestuous relationships with his sisters Drusilla, Livilla, Agrippina, and also prostituted them to other men. If there were no criminals to be thrown into the arena to be devoured by the wild animals, he indulged himself by having a section of the crowd thrown into the arena to be eaten. Oh yes, he also made his horse Incitatus into a consul and a priest.

History is full of examples where the dominating rulers took whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, whomever they wanted while not granting simple human liberties such as life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness as in the United States Declaration of Independence. These three simple aspects are among the unalienable rights (as stated in the latest version of the Declaration of Independence, but newer dictionaries use it as "inalienable rights" which are used interchangeably and are one and the same); sovereign rights of man. Why then I must ask we are so willing to hand them over by simple misuse of the word “freedom” or as in the Turkish example "your safety"? The idea of human rights is born simply out of this. Unalienable rights are considered to be self-evident and also universal. The Legal rights that we have been enjoying since before the constitution within this continent are not granted around the globe; not every homo-sapien around the world enjoys them, not even today in the 21st century! Are we so tired of being free (within the true definition of the word)? Perhaps we should review Alexander the Great and Caligula again. Those freedoms were neither free nor cheap. They were paid in full with with blood and lives - that holds true for all democracies. It took the idea of democracy thousands of years to evolve and get in its current state; breaking it down even one page at a time out of the history would be devastating for the human race. Do people have any idea they'd be allowing to happen? They'll be making room for rulers worse than Nero, Alexander and even Caligula. I sincerely hope that this does not happen.

I hear people everyday in social media or news, or flood of e-mails I receive how they love their country. Do you really? Not in words, and "I've passed my patriotic e-mail on, I'm done with my duty to my country" or sent my son/daughter to the military. Don't get me wrong; that is a big deal. One's child is the most important person in one's life (depends who you ask, but this seem to be the consensus for general public), but considering a lot of the countries around the globe make this a mandatory mission for all males (some countries require all citizens) who reach the age of 18, this sort of dims the lights on the countries' citizens who serve on voluntary basis. Most of my relatives served in the military. My dad was a tank driver in the army, my brother was an officer in the navy who served in the peacekeeping missions in Bosnia. In fact, a lot of the girls I know will not marry a boy who has not served in the military, because it's a prerequisite along with a list of other things. My dad always said that all males should serve in the military if they're able bodied, because it makes a man out of boys. Sort of a right of passage. I'm sure many will disagree with that, but it's an opinion as good as any. My best friend is married to an ex-airforce guy. So when something is the "norm" you don't get the bragging rights on that thing. Military service is one of them.

 How do you love your country? What do you exactly do for her everyday in terms of hard work, in terms of bettering something for your fellow human being? This is why I love Voltaire who said: "Qui sert bien son pays n'a pas besoin d'aïeux." (He) Who serves his country well, has no need of ancestors. Because frankly, I'm tired of hearing what your grandfather, great-grandfather did for his country while you do nothing. Serve your country well, so you shall need no ancestors. Simply do your job (whatever that is.) As in the words of Martin Luther King, "If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can't be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be be the best little shrub on the side of the hill. Be a bush if you can't be a tree. If you can't be a highway, just be a trail. If you can't be a sun, be a star. For it isn't by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are." the best of your ability; work hard, be involved in the lives of your children, if you can remove a small obstacle from the road for the next one to pass through, just do it. Whatever you are doing, do it to the best of your ability, and you shall serve not only your country but your fellow human being, and your God.

 Keep your neighborhood clean and safe, be a good neighbor (give a ride to their child to school along with yours, buy groceries if you know your neighbor lost his/her job, if you're not able to do that at least pray for them to find a job and let them know, if you have extra items, by all means avoid doing a garage sale and donate them to someone you know who needs those things- do small things in your own capacity), be a good friend, do your best in all things that you do every day. That's what the men and women did who shaped the west who are my biggest heros.
This is how I love her, like John Wayne did:
I think this following poem by William Ernest Henley speaks volumes for the American sprit (though the poet was British and he was only talking about his own unbroken sprit and as a demonstration of his resilience following the amputation of his foot due to tubercular infection.) But nonetheless, it's a great piece to express the sentiment for the true American sprit - we all one time or another fall on various tough times as it is the case for a lot of our states currently and their citizens, but we Americans are hard to break and that's what I love the most about us. But this poem is almost the definition, the pinnacle of freedom. Freedom of human spirit: our hardwired, inner desire to be free against all odds, even against the universe itself:


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley

Alexander the Great (above and below)

Caligula (3rd emperor of the Roman Empire)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cherry trees and vineyards - a girl's story

I have many first cousins. 35 to be exact.

When we were kids, we all visited each other, and our parents made sure that there was always contact and interaction between relatives. Family came first. Like Italian or Greek families. No matter how different they pretend to be, traditions among Mediterranean people regardless of their background are similar, though I should make the distinction of Northern half of the Mediterranean here. Food, culture, music, traditions are similar since they've co-mingled for thousands of years.

So, our family is no exception. Even if the parents had to travel. I had visited them from the U.S. It was good for us to learn the language, and meet some family. With our parents' efforts and through natural selection (by that I mean that you choose the ones you like best), I got closer to some cousins, and indifferent to some others, and a few required a lot of extra effort to love them. Though I made sure I loved them from a very distant place. Those are the ones I don't have much in common. But this one particular cousin is just so lovable, completely sweet and I find it impossible to not to get along with her. She's like Jane in "Pride and Prejudice" with an air playfulness. I always loved her since possibly the minute she was born. Her dad had red hair, and my aunt was dark blonde, so it was no surprise that she sported blonde hair, cute button nose, and was always small when she was a child which made her very adorable and lovable. Her mother had always been one of my favorite aunts. She's always been funny; even when she wasn't trying to be funny.

I remember one summer I was visiting them, and in the early stage of my teenage years (14 years old maybe) we were picking cherries at my grandfather's orchard. It was a collective effort. The whole family and hired workers, 12 

people or more. As the old adage goes, many hands make little work, and work hours are only more fun when there's local gossip. My aunt had plenty to supply. She must have been in her 30s then. She climbed on the mid level of this triangular prism contraption called "cambaz" (see on the right). You climb over this thing, and it's artfully called that because it literally means "acrobat". You have to climb over it, hang your basket or bucket, and pick cherries from the unreachable limbs and branches of the cherry trees.

"Well," my aunt Sultan started. "Ya'll all know electrician Mustapha, right?" All the workers and relatives gave a murmur of recognition and disgust all at the same time to my confused ears. He was a middle aged man, a skilled electrician (considering there was not much competition in town-he was one of the two electricians; and later I learned that the extent of his skills were not in the field of electricity), and he was a known pervert. But, I guess his reputation in the field of perverseness did not reach the ears of nearby towns ahead of his electrician's skills; he was called for a job in a house in the town where my aunt lived. One of the woman workers wanted to get down to the juicy part of the story, pressed my aunt. "Yes, yes, we know him, so what's the story?" My aunt continued with a big smile as if to say “have I got story!”

"He was called to Barber Akhmad's new daughter in-law's house." Some nodded in acknowledgement, some didn't know her. "Oh, she's a pretty young thing, and ample in the departments that Mustapha is interested in." That made other listeners catch up with the gist of where the story was going, nodding, smiling with anticipation, and some young women were giggling.

"Well," my aunt continued. "She lives right above her mother in-law, on the second floor. The first floor is a basement. That's a really nice house on the main street (those stories always have a way of describing the niceties making it easy to get sidetracked)," said she, and "yes, yes" urged another woman impatiently trying to get to the good part of the story.

"Ok, so, he goes and knocks on the door, and this young bride opens the door. She tells him that the living room chandelier has been shorting the electricity, and she thinks it was wired incorrectly. Would he come and fix that,"

“Oh, Lordie Lord! She let him in the house?” said one woman incredulous.

“To her credit, she’s not from around here. She moved to our town from the big city.” Said my aunt shaking her head, “she didn’t know he was loose, in that way” nodding, giving a significant look to the other women.

"Aha," said another woman in liking the direction of the story.

"So, of course Mustapha is happy to oblige. He asks the woman to bring a sturdy chair to climb on so he can unscrew the chandelier, which he does skillfully. He hands the young bride the chandelier to put on the table. He is going to see, and check if there is anything loose up there. Then tells the young bride to hold his chair, stating concern that it may not be sturdy and he may fall down." By that time, "oohs" and "ahhs" of understanding are murmured around.

“And lo and behold, he screams, 'oh Lord, I got shocked! Help me lady!' And just jumps right on down, grabbing the woman's very large boobs on the way pinning her down on the floor right there in the living room!" This must have been the peak of the story, because gasps went all around at once.

All the women and a few men picking cherries by that time are incredulous but want to know how the story ends. "So what happened?" said one of the curious listeners. My aunt smiled. "His purpose all along was to fuck her right there in her own house without her consent!"

By that time I cleared my throat, and said, "Umm, auntie, it's called raping someone." She answered as if she didn't even realize I was there: "What?"

"The thing you said, it's called rape! Not that other foul word you used?" I sounded like asking a question.

"What are you listening to the story for? What is rape anyway?" she reprimanded me.

I blurted out an answer her second question first: "Rape is having sex with someone forcefully without their consent."

She retorted back, "what did I say?"

I answered, "you said that he tried to 'f' word' her."

"Well, I did say it was without her consent, didn't I?" asked with genuine sincerity.

The other cherry pickers murmured an agreement, "yes, she did."

"What are you listening to the story for? This story is not for virgin girls! I was telling that to the women and men here, who are mature, not virgins" she scolded me. (She meant I still had my virtue intact, and that was an adult story, and I should have excluded myself.)

"You should have made that distinction before you began to tell it, I would have moved to another tree," I scolded her back.

"Well, sorry my educated niece," she said this time with a mock reprimand, "we can't all be polite and educated like you.” But as if the moving on she added, “Anyway, I love you, I forgive you for talking back to me," she said sweetly with a glimmer in her eyes.

"You forgive me?" I was incredulous.

"Yes, don't you want me to forgive you?" she said puzzled.

"No, because I didn't do anything wrong, you told an inappropriate story."

"It’s blanket forgiveness, I forgive you for listening to adult's stories as well."

My mouth must have been wide open; my little cousin (my aunt's daughter who was about 5 came and held my hand) with her short blonde hair shaking back and forth and said: "don't fight. She doesn't get it," with the air of a grown up completely surprising me. That was Meryem. I smiled and thanked her. Then turned to my aunt and said, "You’re right, I'm glad you forgive me. Thank you!"

She then turned to other ladies and said, "That’s why she's my favorite niece! She's always so polite, and has the correct expressions. Our education train has passed by," she said swooping her hand around to indicate herself and other women, "but I'm glad you're getting what we let us pass by," and smiled.

Ladies interrupted, "tell us the end of the story! Did he take the virtue of the woman?" now that I was there making a point to be polite.

"Nooo!" gushed my aunt. "That's the good part! Once she got over her confusion, she tossed him off of herself, and locked him in the living room, and called her husband!"
Even I got into the story by then, and asked, "She didn't call the police?" All the other women stared at me as if they were listening to a slow witted individual.

"What police?" my aunt said, we only have the gendarme here, and who would want to admit having their honor stained by a pervert?" Everyone nodded in agreement; I stared.

I didn't want to be the only dumb person; clearly there was something I was not getting. "So, what happened, didn't he run away from a window or a balcony or something?" I asked.

"Nooo," said my aunt smiling. "They were on the second floor. He's a middle aged pervert, not an acrobat! So, he got stuck in the house, and when the husband came home rushing, he beat the daylights out of him!"

"Serves him right!" murmured the women still picking cherries.

"Wait," I said, "you said that they wouldn't file a complaint because they didn't want her honor stained. I'm assuming they didn't want people to hear about it. But, you just told us the story, so, you heard about it. What difference would it make if the story was told to the police, or gendarme?"

My aunt sighed, and looked apologetically to the other women, "the difference is," she said, "that her honor was cleared by her husband. They weren't inept to take care of their own business, going to the gendarme and twirling their fingers as if to beg for help and, wait around for justice to be served. It's his wife, his honor! He did a great job administering justice. I saw the electrician Mustapha, all black and blue, and couldn’t even look at the other men in the eye when he went to the coffee shop. People all ignored him like he wasn’t there! He'll think twice before he attacks another woman!" she said conclusively.

"But he's free!" I blurted.

"Yes," my aunt said exasperated. "What would happen if they went to the cops? First they would question her, embarrassment for her and her family, and they'd also question him. And he might have said, well, she made a pass at me, and I reciprocated. Or he may have denied it altogether. Now, he can't go and complain to the cops because he's the pervert. He couldn't go and say he got beat up because he tried to fuck someone's wife. Sorry, rape..." She corrected herself. I smiled at myself. "Now, problem is solved."

"But you already heard the story, so that probably defeats the purpose if they trying to avoid making the story public," I interjected.

"Two things. They're my neighbors; we have no secrets from each other. And in a small town, nothing really is secret. Everyone knows everyone's business." An agreement murmur went around. "And, now they can talk about it, because her honor has been cleared. She fought off her attacker, didn't give into him and her husband took care of her by beating the crap out of his wife's attacker."

I was still confused. One woman summarized, "look, we live in a small town. Not more than 2000 people or even less. Everyone knows all your family, all your relations, they know where you live, what properties and lands you hold, which towns you have relatives in, who your great great grandparents are. We've lived in these lands for over a thousand years within the same lineage. Your name, your honor is everything. We take care of things differently than the city folk. We see each other's faces every day. Neighbors are like our own families. We're not sophisticated, or ultra-educated. But this is our life, our way. Family name, family honor. You can't sit around to get justice, and spend money you don't have in the way to receive justice for something that was done wrong to you, and keep it in your memory for a few years, and be hurt with it day in and day out. Or do it this way. Now, she did the right thing, and her husband took care of the rest. The problem is solved, and she can move on. Simple enough." Then she smiled, and they moved onto a different gossip.

Now many years later (20-21 can't remember which), my cousin who held my hand that day is a grown woman, she is in her 20s. Her parents made sure that she got her college education, and allowed her to be a young independent woman. She was engaged 5 months ago to a local guy who now lived in NY. They had a short courtship, and he had his parents ask for her hand in marriage to follow the family traditions. She has had many suitors. She's very beautiful, and feisty, and smart, and talented. I've always kept in touch with her, because I love her a lot. She asked me to talk to her fiancée over the phone and meet him and give her my opinion of him. However much one can tell over the phone of someone, but I spoke to him a few times, and he sounded like a nice young man.

They were still getting to know each other from a distance, and that was concerning for her. She, being in Turkey, and him in NY. He first asked her that wouldn't it be a great idea, if his brother and his wife tagged along with them on their honeymoon? She was clearly not happy, and disliked the idea. She told him, "Not really, it's our honeymoon, not a family vacation. This is something we can later do together, but our very first vacation is honeymoon. We should not be spending it with your brother and sister in law." He told her to think about it, because he was set on the idea. That was her first question mark if he would respect her opinions and whether they were a good match.

A few weeks ago he blurted out to her, "I love my parents so much, as you love yours. I've decided that they would live with us after we get married." She was surprised, and asked him, "right away?"

"Yes!" he said incredulously. "I love my parents. I'm sorry, but your answer will show me how much you really care about me. If I were to say to you that I not only want to spend a year with my parents, but my whole life, you should be able to say yes!"

So she told him, "If your parents are ill, and need help, I will care for them, and help them. If they're old, and in the declining years of their lives, they're more than welcome to live with us, and I will carry them like a crown; care for them, and honor them. If they want to visit us and live in our home for even six months at a time now, I’ll show them all the hospitality. But, right now they're young, in their late 40s and early 50s. They have a nice home, they have their own income. They're not in need of us. You and I should spend the first years of our marriage together, alone, so we get to know each other, and establish our own family. I want to be able to have some privacy in the primary years. That’s important for me. When the time comes that your parents need care, I'm more than willing to care for them with you, but let's spend the initial years of our marriage together. Just you and me."

Well, that flipped him off. What did she mean that she didn't want to live with his parents? She told him she has to think about this as it was an important decision; but he was adamant on having his parents live with him starting with the first day of their marriage. So she could show them, she was a good daughter in law (can you say subservient?). "I hope," he told her, "that your conclusion is on the positive. Otherwise, I don't know if this relationship would work," being completely an (oh what shall I call him), ass maybe...

But that wasn't enough. The day after this discussion, he took his views to Facebook. I understood right away what it was about. He was asking this: "What would you say if I told you that I love my parents so much that I not only want to spend a year with them, but my life time. I'm sorry, but your negative answer is not an indicative of how much (or how little) you love me, but also how much you care about your own parents." (such a low blow!)

Of course there were a number of responses of what a good son he was, and the woman he married, or was marrying didn't deserve him. My cousin Meryem didn't respond to any of these, and silently waited for him to apologize for this humiliation. The irony of it is that now even the most ordinary people are learning that public remarks (now that all can get a certain level of exposure online) can hurt our loved ones. He didn't care; he was gloating and unbidden. No apologies. Some of us remarked that it was hard to live with in-laws even in later years, and that strained relationships, but he didn't want to hear it: in his mind, he was right, and she was wrong. And boldly said, "I see that my question reached its intended destination" adding a smilee, a smirk I wanted to wipe right out of his face. Even though this went on for days, she didn't defend herself, or remark on anything he wrote publicly and just emailed and texted him to call her since he was making these comments, and he should discuss his grievances with her. If he wanted to speak, he should please talk to her. Boy, that got his uppity butt even higher! She was sadder, and he was even more of an ass if that was at all possible. By then I just about had it.

I sent him an e-mail about how marriages should be "between a man and a woman" and that a man leaves his mother and father and cleaves to his wife. If you put four more people into the equation (2 sets of parents), this would make things more than complicated. I gave him I Corinthians 13. He didn't bother, kept on publicly humiliating her until she, in his mind, gave into his desires. But she still didn't reprimand him publicly. And he wasn’t calling her until she agreed with him; otherwise he was going to keep humiliating her.

She thought a couple's problems should be resolved between the couple, not in public. On his last insult he posted about her, I told him that he should learn to resolve his problems with his significant other in private with her only. I think one should learn that by the time he’s 34 or 35 (his age). And though she was in her mid-20s, she was more mature, and responsible than he was.

It's no place of other people to judge a wonderful girl who didn't defend herself, who didn't respond to any nasty comments of his or others because she was more honorable than he was. I was not happy that he was hurting, harassing my cousin in public like this, and he wasn't the only man in the world for her. You better believe I opened my big American mouth. Women aren't there for men to abuse, or get in a desired mold by their men. She was more than generous to him by telling him that she would take care of them if they were ill, old and in need of help. But it was unfair of him to demand her youth to be spent on caring, no, being a maid to his parents.

Boy, he just opened his great big mouth, that he would go fuck "Virgin Mary" (assuming that insult meant for me, though I'm not a Catholic, it's no secret that I love Jesus), and all of Jesus' family, and etc. etc. Upon seeing this, my cousin, and my aunt called his parents, told them the engagement was off, they could come and collect the ring, necklace and a few knickknacks they gifted her, and they paid for their gas, and dare he not insult Jesus or his mother (bless her little heart!) And she said they brought cookies when they came over which she said the ring she purchased for him would amply cover the cost of their cookies. My cousin told her parents “don’t you dare to bring the ring I’ve purchased back to me, or any gift that we have given you. We’re not simple! If you should bring them back to us, I will burn them in that stove before everyone’s eyes!”

My aunt said that she wants her daughter to be happy, not a subservient. She was livid, "this girl has been running the whole ranch here! She runs the vineyard, 175 acres! Not to mention the cherry orchards, and cotton fields, and sugar beets. She gets the workers to prune, care and take care of the whole place. She drives the tractors, collects the workers, pays them, sell the grapes, cherries, cotton, and the sugar beets! She haggles the prices, takes her father to the hospital for his heart problem, and she is one of the kindest people around! This young woman does the work of 10 grown men! I would die before I make her take orders from an ass like him!" Her father was right with her.

"This is my baby!" he said, "I wouldn't let her cry when she was a child, and this jerk made my baby cry! And for what? Public humiliation? She deserves better."

And so she does. She said that she wouldn't respond to him in public in any way. She was better than that. She had her standards even if he didn't. She said, "What makes me sad that he stole five months from me. I can never replace that. But I am happy that it could have been 5 years. That would have been worse. Isn't life cruel in that way anyway? Gives you the exam first, then the lesson? I'm glad my lesson only lasted five months, and I guess I made the best of my tuition."

It may sound odd to someone to hear how close one can be to a cousin where in the society we live not even the siblings are close. But, that's not true for me. God, family, republic. She's back being single again, and happy. Taking a break, studying, reading, and pruning the vineyard; enjoying the love and support of her parents. I will always love her. You’re mature to not to respond, but, my typing fingers have an itch, and only getting the story out would get rid of it. You’re sweet, beautiful, thoughtful, and wonderful. I’m lucky to have you in my family! Love you Meryem!