Love in/ing Istanbul
Seeing a US fast food chain in Istanbul is like running into a crass, boorish American tourist in the Hagia Sophia; not far from my hotel there’s a Burger King talking on its phone during the movie and a McDonalds farting in the sauna. Fortunately the vast majority of (human) Americans I meet abroad are good representatives of my nation, people I am glad to have on my team, but globalization is undeniable, and Ronald McDonald remains relentlessly the American embassador in some people’s minds. “You are American? Do you all eat hamburgers all the time?”
But globalization, as easy and comfortable as it is to revile, can be pretty damn fantastic. Yesterday I woke up with a text message from my friend and founder of Altruvistas telling me that a mutual friend in Cuba sends his love. Here I was in Istanbul, chatting with a friend in Havana. That’s nifty. As is the fact that a few weeks ago I was IN Havana, and am now here, carried in a big metal sleeve high above the clouds, from one side of the planet to the other in a few hours, in perfect safety, and the dinner on Turkish Airlines wasn’t half bad. (“Breakfast” was eggs like half-set jello and a scab of miscellaneous meat the color of a pencil eraser, but hey, can’t win ’em all.)
You know who else can’t win ’em all? Doctors. But you know what else is stupefyingly precious about being alive in this age? Modern medicine. I can cite several people I love who would have died without modern medicine, and instead had outpatient procedures and a copay.
I was going to say more about that, but the pre-dawn Call to Prayer is echoing out over Istanbul behind me, and the sheer beauty of this incredible world is just too much. I love that sound. I love being here. I love living in a day and age when all of this is possible. (And please, for the love of all that’s holy, however you happen to pray, don’t believe the media and marketers who tell you it’s not safe. The world is safer today than it’s ever been before, but human fear is illogical, while avarice and prejudice are sadly easy.)
So I don’t love the fact that America seems to export its worst things: artery-clogging nutritionless crap food, misinformed war, and the Kardasians (just kidding, most of the world is smart enough to pay no attention to them). But I do love that despite the media, the politicians, and the extremists (and even worse, all three in the same people; I’d link to Mike Huckabee, but I care too much about you to subject you to that), the vast majority of humans on this planet want each other to live happy, safe lives. They want to raise their kids and feed their families. They want to pray in peace, go to work, and sing when they’re happy.
The world has a lot of problems. Some days I don’t see us humans surviving much longer. But this morning, the minarets standing in quiet dignity outside, a Turkish breakfast with a view over the Bosphorus in my near future, and my brother already on his way here in one of those big metal birds, the world seems like a pretty dang good place.
For more details of a pretty dang good place (Cuba!), and humans’ efforts to solve problems, you can read my next post on the Altruvistas website: here.