Dictator versus traitor.
But whatever the reason, the fact that this word was mentioned many times at the recent CHP congress triggered tremendous anger in the presidential palace and government circles. Prosecutors began an immediate investigation into Kylycdaroy-lu, despite the immunity granted to him by his office. As for Erdoy-an, he began legal proceedings asking for TL 100,000 in compensation.
The situation is saddening, no question: A president bound by oath to protect the unity of the country and the people and to represent a loftier harmony between the various branches of government instead chooses to ignore the objectivity that is meant to guide him and is therefore the subject of Kylycdaroy-lu's words. Let's call a spade a spade: Kylycdaroy-lu's words were very sharp, very tough. He said: "You parody of a dictator: I ask you, what does a word like 'honor' mean to you? You are going to have to account for all this. Either start protecting the objectivity that binds you and be respected or have me remind you daily about the concept of honor. Why did you take that oath? If you don't begin protecting the objectivity of this office, I will continue with these kinds of words, only they will become heavier. Oh, and you say you're religious. According to you, it's only you who are religious. But for a truly pious man, honor is an important thing." Yes, hard words to bear. But is it only Kylycdaroy-lu who is at fault in that?
I won't use this column to argue how Erdoy-an, whose entire being is in pursuit of creating a single-man regime at any cost, has brought this country to the edge of a precipice. Instead, I want to keep searching the answers to these questions: In what cases can we really use the word "dictator"? And as a description of whom? When do dictators morph into leaders that the people are no longer allowed to call "dictators"? And when you can no longer call a dictator a dictator, what do you then call him or her? And what can you say when, while a dictatorial leader cannot be called a "dictator," words like "traitor," and "treason" can be used with abandon by said leader?
It calls for noting that never in history have dictators viewed themselves as "dictators." Instead, all dictators see themselves as unparalleled leaders who will end up saving their countries and who have only the best interests of their peoples and nations in mind. Looking back through the ages, it's clear that just as the world has seen dictators who have viewed themselves as gifts from God, it's also seen dictators who put themselves directly in the place of God (like the pharaohs). I'm writing this as someone who has seen with my own eyes a modern dictatorship in which the leader in question had his own birthday celebrated at a ceremony that staged a play showing him as a baby descending from the sky to his country. In fact, that particular dictator even wrote a book that the people of his country were obliged to read as a matter of duty.
Of course, what's worse than the fact that dictators don't appreciate being called dictators is that they make those who dare to do so regret it. Interestingly, when a dictatorial leader can still be labeled a "dictator" in his own country, it's a sign that there is still hope in that country, that it's not too late. Similarly, you can be sure that the more institutionalized a dictatorship becomes, one of the first words to disappear from the horizon will in fact be the word "dictator." And by the same token, as the word "dictator" disappears from local talk, it is replaced with a liberal sprinkling of words like "treason," "traitor" and so on. In fact, you can judge just how powerful a dictatorship is in direct proportion to how reduced the use of the word "dictator" is in a country and by contrast, how widespread the use of words like "traitor" and "treason" are in the context of opposition voices.
But of course, the story doesn't end here. After dictators oversee the deep settling of their systems into place and after they transcend the unpleasant period when people call still call them "dictators," well, that's when the good days begin for them. When dictators arrive at the final stages of their journeys, they leave behind those unsettling labels people had tried to stick on them in the past and they start being referred to with much more appealing titles: El Caudillo, the FE-hrer, Ulu Eunder... you get the picture; titles that rely on much softer adjectives, which are much more pleasing to the ears.
Of course, not all dictators throughout history have been the same, although they do share certain characteristics, such as leading with oppression. There have been ideologically oriented dictators like Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini and "compassionate" dictators like Napoleon Bonaparte, Josip Broz Tito and Ho Chi Minh. Then there have been dictators like Josef Stalin, who tried to camouflage their dictatorships with single-party domination, or think of typical military dictatorships like Spain's Francisco Franco or Libya's Muammer Qaddafi.
As I've noted above already, none of these sorts of dictatorships were the kind in which the people living in these countries could or would actually call these leaders "dictators." Because after all, these were all regimes in which neither democracy nor freedom nor people who felt free enough to speak the truth were left. This, in turn, is how Hitler morphed into being called simply the FE-hrer, or Stalin just "Stalin" (which means "steel" in Russian). When these men were at the peaks of their power, no one would dare call them "fascist dictators."
Let's continue in this vein, though. Think about China's Mao Zedong, who through the course of massacres, civil conflicts and international wars -- not to mention so-called revolutions labeled things like "The Great Leap Forward" or the "Cultural Revolution" -- was ultimately responsible for the deaths of 50 million people. In the end, he was simply known as Chairman Mao. Or what about Saddam Hussein, on whose hands was the blood of some 2 million people, but who liked to be known widely as "the Big Uncle" in Iraq.
In Spain, who could have ever called Franco -- who massacred some 2 million people -- a fascist? He was always "El Caudillo." And in Cambodia, Pol Pot, the man who caused the deaths of at least 3 million people, was not a dictator, no, but "the Number-One Brother." Likewise, Romania's infamous leader Nicolae Ceau[R]Oescu probably loved being called "the Genius of the Carpathians," certainly more than he would have appreciated hearing himself dismissed a dictator. After they achieved a certain level of power, you could never call Cuba's Fulgencio Batista, or Chile's Augusto Pinoche, or Haiti's Francois Duvalier, or Nicaragua's Anastasio Somoza a dictator.
So in the end, if you can still call someone a dictator because of their tyrannical actions, their arbitrary moves and their dependence on oppression to lead, then I suppose you should take some joy from that. It's the day you are forced to call that person the "Head" that it's too late for that country.
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