I hesitate to tell the full story of my Istanbul experiences and it's the fault of some of my closest friends. You see, the full story involves some negatives. Harsh experiences are the difference between a fairytale and an adventure, and I wasn't experiencing anything Cinderella could handle.
And I want to share everything. I want to be completely honest but how can I do that when the greetings I get from people here at home start with "You're alive! You didn't get blown up! Yay!"?
I just want that to sink in for a moment. The first reaction when meeting someone who just had a four month long experience abroad, who visited ancient Roman ruins, danced and drank with people wholly different than anything they've ever met before, and had their entire world-view shifted is: gosh, I'm sort of surprised you're alive right now. That tells me my friends aren't ready to hear about the negatives that came along with my travels because they'll hear nothing else. They won't focus on how the Blue Mosque made me stop in awe the second I walked in; all they'll see is the night that I was groped in a dance hall or leered at on the tram. The insanity and beauty of an enormous city that still has cobbled streets won't make half as much noise as the bombs that went off during my stay. It's hard for me to even justify trying when I know what their problem is. It's not that they don't understand a different culture, I don't even understand the culture and I was there for months. It's that they're not willing to try. They've got their ideas of what Turkey is like, and that's how it's going to be. So instead of being honest I have to sugarcoat things. I have to gloss over the racism I saw, the misogyny, the terrorist attacks because I can't stand the thought encouraging my friends to lock themselves away from the idea of experiencing something other than what they know.
The trend of the western world is to support people we know and to fear and ignore those we don't. I see it with every attack; people pray for France and Belgium but I have yet to see a single post about Istanbul where almost 50 people are dead. They went to a place that's supposed to signify the start of a journey to somewhere new and exciting and instead they were blown to bits. Killed by people who want to instill the kind of irrational, hate-inducing fear that is already being bred by people I know and love dearly.
And now, even with western media actually covering this attack unlike previous ones, the western public has yet to catch on and empathize with the loss of real human life. It's a disappointing trend, and one I can only do so much to try and change. So for now, I'll stick to my sugarcoating around friends, and a deep honesty in my writing.
I hope that those of you who haven't found it in yourselves to think with compassion about these Turkish people who are no longer there to live their lives that you are able to reflect honestly on the reasons for this lack of empathy. The smallest change in perception makes greater shifts than you can imagine.