tv After Words with Suzy Hansen CSPAN September 25, 2017 12:00am-1:01am EDT
lucky enough to be here today with the author of the book notes on a foreign country and american in a post-american world. the contributing author of "the new york times" magazine currently living in istanbul. in trying to describe this book to a number of people, i find myself stumbling. i think it is a book about you going abroad as an american in 2007 warning about the muslim world into turkey an and turkeys accounting region.
it's a book about that region but also a book that is relevant today as we have seen with charlottesville it is very much a book about what is america and what does it mean to be an american. can you talk about how you would describe this book >> it seems there are a number of books that comes from the genesis of the book. during the first year or two years i was talking to friends
of mine particularly who lived in london, one was british and one was indian and i was telling them about everything i was learning in turkey and after about a year or so i said i'm going to write a book about turkey and they said we think your book is about america because what they had been hearing more powerfully maybe then my observations about turkey were a hell of a turkish viewed americans. alview of americans. all of this was coming as a kind of revelation to me in the first i was horrified and it seems like what you are not supposed to do as a journalist, it became more complicated and as i became
more aware of my weaknesses and my blind spot, i didn't really feel comfortable writing a book about turkey as much as i thought what i could write about was the experience of your country from afar and that i might be the more powerful story that i can tell. you start out the scene where there was a political disaster a few years back and they were asking you why did he wait for this horrible tragedy to come. can you talk about that?
>> guest: that was an interesting case because what i was thinking when one miner asked me that come it reminded me that a lot of journalists in earlier years we have been focused on this debate and i think some people including myself have been paying attention to how he was actually changing the country. we know now a lot of land from which the neoliberalism that he was implementing a defined with very little regard for the rules and for the miners themselves and what i wanted to say was i was, why did it take me so long,
because i was caught up in other things and i was not able to see these weaknesses and perhaps she was portrayed as pro-business and something familiar to me. and if i was not aware that my sort of affection or familiarity or comfort with capitalism went that deep it would lead me to have such blind spots. >> guest: certainly this is how he was portrayed in particular in the western media when he first came to power in 2003, it was about the economic policies and catapulting turkey in the third world backwater they have for a long time. despite the fact you talk about
this ambivalence and your family you talk about a muslim majority country because of what we experience here in 9/11. why would you go and live in that part of the world and you even talk about the assumption that you have. i think a lot of the book is noticing your reflexes which i'd try to sort of breakdown over the ark o arc of the book and ik that when my father expressed a concern about me moving i thought of myself as a liberal
leftist but there was a part of me if i had spoken that way than i was also afraid of it and it was something that needed to be restrained. but if shuck a lot of people in ways that we have not grappled with. >> we see a progressive leader in the muslim majority that we all found. he also was using the rhetoric that we were familiar with for the free market of huma marketss and democracy and freedom and he was using the words that made us feel good about him in the beginning especially. what bothers me is that we fell for it at some level
>> i want to talk with you about this because it goes to the heart of how this is many books in one and it's not just about your experience but it's about america today. it's how you believe america was inherently good and i thought america was at the end of some spectrum of civilization and everyone else is trying to catch up. my learning process was threefold. i was learning about america's role in the world and fully understanding my prejudices that made it so impossible to acquire the knowledge in the first place american exceptionalism didn't only defined the united states
is a special niche in it demanded all believe to perform superior to others can you talk about this epiphany that you have you go to turkey with the sense here we have the answers to get you started to question rv actually write. there's definitely the question rv exceptional and why had i never thought that this was a form of propaganda and by, where was this coming from and what
was the job that it was doing. this took a long time to realize that the language we used when we talked about foreign countries has determined for us for a long time ago because they tended to look at muslim countries in the east as were they catching up with us are they behind us. so you can see someone for who they are in the turkish context so this is again going back to the passage that you read befo before. you are understanding your own prejudice and why you were not able to think in this complex way before. one of the reasons in terms of understanding the complexity in
turkey and in the united states, you referenced a lot to james baldwin in this book and you talk about is because he had written he felt more comfortable than he did. >> he expressed he lived in paris and new york and i watched this documentary and it was my first image. he expressed he felt more comfortable if he was my favorite writer.
he was that for me because he explained what it meant to be a white american which is something i haven't thought about so carefully. so when i saw that he had lived there, this place had made him feel good what did that mean about me and my knowledge. so she had explained in such detail the relationship in black and white america and he had begun to suggest that he was a
seeing how they were taking that relationship and possibly testing it out onto the rest of the world and there was a relationship in which people were not aware of or they didn't want to fully grappled with and didn't take responsibility for and he was watching one of the early satellites after world war ii and he was feeling nervous and was scared to see all these americans on the soil so i realized even though he had nothing to do with it at first i could use him to help me understand. >> host: i want to continue on the threat of using other countries as satellites.
what has been happening from that perspective and it has been with these respective countries bubut you also gain a lot more insight and value as an american abroad so can you talk a little bit about that? >> the reason the book is so personal is the only psychology i can analyze is my own but at the same time i wanted them to learn the way that i had because
i had this experience i got to move abroad and not many people get to do that and in the process of writing the book i read more and more so i wanted to share that with the reader. and i did remember these kind of powerful moments and it doesn't even have to be like a long scene or many hours maybe just wear something hits you like in cairo. that feeling of responsibility is unique when you were there
and seeing it for yourself. as you are realizing i've gone my whole life without being aware, without having a relationship with millions of people it's a relationship that we have been having but they know the relationship very well so that suddenly strikes you as a serious and grave situation >> in one of the things you start to say is that you reassess not only america but who you are as an american and i think that it's very important
that i want to spend a little time on this because you make the distinction if you say that there is this american ideal is a place that america can come too but then thertobut then thel american policies and what we've done in the world and i think that you do start to say america isn't one-dimensional and americans are not one-dimensional and i think that you start to see what those many sides are. >> guest: s. and they talked about but there are two americas basically and again they are aware of both of them but for most of us, we are just kind of enamored with our domestic narrative and detached but what
i found a light began to wonder then what does the narrative have to do with who we are and i began to wonder the way that we have been detached what's really gets down to it it has made a lack of empathy and when you think about these things you can't just say the countr save r point fingers at those people over there. what do you as an individual are you comfortable with violence because i think it is unique in this way so i think it becomes
very complicated but it's not just about things like empty and do you get your self-esteem from the fact that your country was the most powerful in the planet. but the intentions are good because we are america and i don't see how it couldn't trickle down into people's feelings about themselves as individuals and this is the sort of stuff i was thinking about when i was abroad. >> there is one scene in the book.
thank god this happened when you were not in america can you talk about that? >> guest: i have pneumonia and i was so sick i didn't know what was wrong with me. afterwards when i told people what happened but of course the hospital i went to was so awful they couldn't diagnose me come it wasn't very clean. i have tremendous respect for the doctors figured out what was wrong with me but it was quite a terrible experience. the turkish hospital i would have gone to would have been much nicer and they would have
had this sort of turkish experience. they would think it is not better than them and that would come as a shock to them when they could replace like istanbul or someplace else. >> postcode or even that it's not modern but it's at its best and we should try to improve it. >> this is so interesting because we are talking about the healthcare system but this is what i mean about reflexes and so much of this book is about examining these tiny moments because it's people that are very critical of the healthcare system in america and all of these debates. that is kind of extraordinary. so many of them have arrived at
the chapter now. there's a lot in this book that looks at what's been happening with growing populism inaudibly places like turkey that we hear about the president of turkey and how he's become in authoritarian and we constantly see what's happening in russia and we see populism rising in hungary and poland in the philippines and it's a phenomenon that is happening around the world and certainly here in this country it's going by the people that have been left behind. how do you feel all of these things are connected?
>> using myself and using my biography i wanted to show that i came from both sides of the american spectrum in a way that i grew up in a conservative place with a typical all-american town where a lot of people would have voted for trump but then i went to the kind of classic elite liberal college and spent my 20s in the new york media. but, from abroad i felt what they were suffering from the same crisis and i think that that has a lot to do with these kind of assumptions about our place in the world, our exceptionalism and power. but watching the rise of trump and listening to people i know
that voted for him is that a lot of this does have to do with international issue and it is not just domestic but in america's case it is also this feeling that we are losing ground, we are losing power and therefore that threatens individual identities. so much of it we were talking about is based on the fact that we are the most important and good eats in c-charlie and after september 11 and after the financial crisis there were these kind of crises and so someone like donald trump can just come in and exploit and i
think that this is one of the things that i talk about as well in the books i hadn't realized american patriotism wasn't nationalism until i went to turkey and was learning about turkish nationalism it never occurred to me that it was nationalism and again, one of those things i'm very surprised that in retrospect that this fascinating and it was one of the most interesting things about the country that i was on some level looking down on it and then i had this really powerful phase where i realized both of them were so similar did that then change your view on the turkish nationalism?
>> guest: first of all, it reminded me that i'm someone i didn't think i was thinking the down on the countries and this is where it's very important. they are on their way, they are coming they just haven't gotten there yet. we can help them along and we don't think of it as being as pernicious but it's the same thing. be very sympathetic at all times to everything and also we
discussed at one point things have changed so much since i moved to turkey ten years ago and now there is something about that identity that is somewhat special that might help them technology, globalization because it is a sense of self. i've certainly seen in my study and did my time going to turkey in the 1970s and the 1980s i remember the only thing they wanted to do is leave and now
they are going back into that such tremendous opportunity and entrepreneurs and this vibrant economy in this sense that there is social mobility and you can build a business and essentially make it in these places and this goes along with what you were saying they started to become more confident in the uncle sam and the handouts that you have in the united states and so i think in many ways, and i would love to hear what your thoughts are. is what we are seeing with what is happening in america but also with the american foreign policy
subway system is. >> this is what makes this such an interesting case study. because other countries suffered much more with their imperial relationships and they have those feelings as the autonomy was stolen from them they were the only ones to negotiate and to say equal control but it is a different case and not as obvious but that's what
makes us not very aware that they were affected by the u.s. it is not vietnam or egypt or iraq but it is complicated and do once with their sovereignty but it scared people in in the '60s this could become stronger and stronger. >> and we are seeing in the united states with the protest a huge polarization in this country politically but i also think very much is and what she did their respective who is occupying the white house certainly i
think that is true under president obama what is america's role in the arab world because now you have a strong china or india and nations like turkey a previously relied died but we cannot do that anymore with those places in africa and america that is true so with this unraveling of the foreign policy level and very much what is said the side of the policy level what do you think about that?. >> because of who we if we
are not that country toward china is as powerful? honestly this is earthshaking if they want to admit it or not it is a sense of ourselves and that could be a wonderful thing because we are saying essentially you are not happy with this we are learning or for have power over every - - other people but even though we take that for granted but that is part of the personality in the half to talk about the of theater of the future that drove the election and that confusion that is going on right now.
>> and want to read in from the book we cannot go abroad and the 21st century to not realize is what has been terrorizing as is our own ignorance of all the of people had been constructed so that touches on what you just said so where do we go from here?. >> so what i draw on is an illusion to september 11 because it was that bewildered meant and this
year of what else happened? because we learned it when deep into the history but if you remember that time everybody was scrambling to read books about the taliban and al qaeda and it is just painful to realize none of us know what happened in the 20th century. this was fine as long as everything was going great. but now it is shattering to us at on thing we know where we're going from here but sometimes i hope because you
have to go through those internal conflicts even with hillary clinton becoming president this would eventually be here anyway not just though we are with our history and also we have not renegotiated our relationship with the world. >> and you touched on this in the epilogue with the rhetoric. >> can you write it is about white america but yet it is interesting talk about james baldwin to he could be more comfortable and here you see
a lot of concern about what direction they go through but it would be interesting to hear your point in terms of what happens? we will all be american but how do we all move forward and embraced the concept of black lives matter and that different aspect so what i have as the daughter of muslim immigrants in this country because i feel like i have a different narrative from a white america. >> this is interesting. >> and we are more connected i understand the drug and a very white town so the power
is why i kept repeating why americans because they want to speak to everyone will have to remember what americans take responsibility. >> what is interesting about your book it is the ruling class with turkey with most people who are familiar we also call them the white turks and early on that the minority group had with that relieve the for a long time without a struggle of african-americans in the united states. >> so they say they will be
more like you or more westernized but first i have a the preconceived notion as if i am not a member of the same class as they are. and uniquely vicious but to be careful as an observer to the conscious what is going on. we're not bringing a lot to the table but as american as it is interesting looking at objectivity and journalism so looking at objectivity
but american also have very american lives that takes away from the power of objectivity and it took a while to sort out. >> one of the things that you talk about with the rise of isis and extremism and terrorism has dominated the headlines here and often they believed the religion to raise certain extent and one of the scenes that you write about bin turki how they cover their hair but it
wasn't allowed to cover in public buildings they have to take their head scarves off bad your comment was too willingly deposit a piece of my clothing and to reflect on what about the what does that mean in though world? what is that we are getting right or wrong again that shows what they don't do very often to see those girls who we're going to school we tend to have a
hard time putting ourselves because they had a bulgarian friend that say americans are uniquely bad because the world is so foreign and confusing in we could attribute those misconceptions that we can also may be looked we are a christian nation but it is deep in the history and an erratic -- rhetoric americans have always been very scared so racism had
like black water that is in the same waiver we looked at isis to be complete the from another planet. silica that collective violence that entire world however group may have come out of that. but i think it would help us if we could relate. >> so the of blackwater contractors are often white men and they're completely different from the people on
empire was going down and then to declare their own independence so of course, they did not want to be a columnist - - colonist but this is interesting things about historians they take americans that their word that they just wholeheartedly believe the american was the best thing you could be anybody could be that we will help you along with you will always remain me the best but if you are constantly dividing a foreign people how do they stay on top? they want to
keep everybody in this position to be a little bit more like america. >> you have gotten a lot of push back from people they were being too cruel about america so my reading is what you're trying to do was set to a new narrative how to respond to those people who call you anti-american?. >> sled is whether to say i will not remind you of the good things america has
done. when editor did not want me to do that and if he he was right because the overall feeling and the spirit of the book is to would mitt we have the enormous prejudice to examine and you are very good reminding but it is the negative is the darker side of everything. it is exactly that voice that makes us not truly take the crimes of the left very seriously and i mean in deep emotional seriousness that
eventually they will see the pain of others because it is a kind of vampire. we are all a part of the same place and we should all feel that way so most americans never really had to deal with the violence the rest of the world has had and it is such an incredible and balance but i can remember the turkish people when i first moved there to save you can randomly invade iraq then americans would say that is silly we have reasons but they're not taking about what it is like for one that
was invaded for no reason or that psychological impact i think the history is so surprising and interesting but not much of the history is very good. [laughter] so it is incomplete because they're not reiterating. >> o lot of things have changed bin turki there was a referendum that changed a of a constitution and the president we mentioned him several times and people are very concerned in the terrorist bombings and isis
so with the restarting of the of war with the kurds and people argue to say the worst is yet to come but?. >> i will always have a relationship i have no other home and love living there and i have always been very happy. but to the turkish friends but i will always be a place for refuge to feel like a place of peace when people ask me if i say it is unstable actually it is a
place of called oddly enough i hope to have a home there hopefully. >> we are wrapping up an american and abroad said talk about the rise of china and india it just means those other countries are rich more powerful what does that mean for you to be an american abroad?. >> it is an education it is a constant education i do not see the country in the same way any more but i feel
. >> arrested in 1987 and wrongfully convicted 1988 of sexual assault and sentenced 48 years based on the victim's stream in 1995 with the innocence project the court ordered the a date to be tested moses and fellow prisoners believed in his innocence raise $1,000 they package the evidence including the rape kit and bedsheets to steal a in a box marked do not destroy. the police permanently destroy the evidence preparing and a dumpster the judge ruled it was not
grounds for a new trial ended 2013 rosas received a letter from another prisoner a bidding to the crime that confessor was one of the of people of the victim originally identified to the police in 1987 as a possible attacker. i have not gone into this for yet but he was housed in the same detention facility as clearance and was doing a double life sentence for the 1992 double rape of a mother and nine year-old daughter who lived a mile and a half away the blood type of the attacker matched of jackson the denver district attorney office did not interview jackson until 18 months after his confession was public and they have fought vigorously to prevent clearance from receiving a new trial despite the
confession and matching blood type. of all art -- a colorado judge vacated the conviction or green the d.a. to retry or traffic charges he was released december 2015 but the district attorney decided to retry until he was finally found not guilty of all counts november 2016 please give him a big hand. [applause] >> welcome. [inaudible conversations]