Lessons from a Turkish Wedding

In the world news, we read of a moment of horror at a wedding in Gaziantep, in southeastern Turkey. During the celebration of his own wedding, as is all too common in the Middle East, Tevfik Altun, the groom, fired his AK-47 into the air, immediately lost control of it, and in an instant had killed his own father and two of his aunts, besides injuring eight others.

News reports include the obligatory mention that the Turkish government has tried unsuccessfully for years to end this practice, but that's a tall order in a culture where the right to party is valued by many as superior to the right to life...where living for the moment is more popular than concern for remaining alive a moment later.

The late Paul Harvey would have recounted such a story in his noontime digest and would rightly have pointedly stated, "It is not one world," before moving on.

Such a tale is easily dismissed as a moment of error, a single human tragedy due to basic carelessness, but there is more beneath the surface for Americans to heed: how different a culture we have -- how different is Western civilization from the rest of the world. It horrifies the left to say so, but this is indisputable. Western civilization celebrates weddings with dinner, music, and dancing. The closest thing to public vandalism is the littering involved in throwing rice; the closest thing to wanton destruction is the crushing of a single pair of wine glasses under the feet of the happy couple.

And as further proof of how far we've come, instead of tossing loose rice as in days past, it has become popular to toss little bags of rice, easily picked up after the ceremony, to protect the birds who might otherwise have been injured by eating it on the street. And we wrap the wine glasses in a canvas or silken bag, to catch the broken glass and protect the feet of wedding guests from errant shards.

How does our approach to public celebrations compare with others'? In numerous other cultures, most notably Arab and Hispanic, it is popular to fire guns into the sky while hundreds or even thousands of other revelers are outdoors, placing friends and strangers alike in great danger. Worse still, they often use whatever guns they have at hand, which in war zones often means weapons with automatic capability (rather than each trigger pull firing a single round, a single trigger pull can fire many, geometrically increasing the danger).

It is common in Mexico for partiers to fire handguns or rifles into the air on New Year's Day or other holidays. It is equally common in the Gaza Strip for mourners at a funeral to fire machine guns into the sky. Those are the guns they have at hand. They don't have blank cartridges; they don't even think of such things. It's a wedding, or a funeral, or a party, or a holiday, and they want a loud bang, so they fire a gun. They don't think ahead a second or two to the question of where that bullet will land; they don't think ahead at all. Raised in a culture of central planning, in which the State plans one's education, career, even retirement, one doesn't get much practice at thinking ahead.

Americans react with shock at stories like our Turkish wedding, though the specific shock experienced will differ from group to group.

People with firearms training -- police, military, NRA, and GOA members -- would likely experience the most visceral horror at the groom's choice of weapon. Such readers know that automatic weapons designed for military service, like the Soviet-designed AK-47, are almost uncontrollable on auto-fire when held horizontally; that's why they come with tripods and are best fired from nests. The idea of firing one into the sky is insanely dangerous.

People without firearms training might not see that distinction, but they would still rightly see the idiocy of firing a gun in the sky knowing there are crowds below. Such a callous disregard for human safety is intolerable in the United States. We don't let small children drive cars; we don't let perverts live near schools. We don't let you ship a can of paint or a butane lighter by truck or rail without attending a triennial refresher course on hazmat transportation. 

Many U.S. states don't even have a law against firing guns into the air because they think it's too painfully obvious to require one.

But this reckless idiocy is commonplace both south of our border and across the seas, in cultures that lack the respect for life and responsibility that these United States have proudly championed since the founding era. Just as "my right to swing my fist ends short of the bridge of your nose," in the same way, "your right to enjoy a party ends before you start endangering my life by firing ammunition at me"!

This might all be academic -- interesting and sad for us to read about, nothing more -- were it not for two severe errors in America today: our broken immigration system and the disease of multiculturalism.

Immigration is largely unchecked on our southern border and nationwide, due to an odd mix of federal bureaucracies -- both those willing but overwhelmed (such as Customs) and those not just unwilling, but outright hostile to enforcement (such as the DoJ). As a result, we are seeing mass immigration of these very peoples -- violent, even lawless strains of immigrants -- who bring the inclinations of their homelands along with them when they arrive.

In short, rather than leaving such walking time bombs to endanger their home countries, we are importing our very own Tevfik Altuns, so that our own communities are endangered as well.

We've worked so hard to combat brawling, violence against women, slavery, so many of the evils of mankind -- and we were succeeding in making this a better culture, safer and more honorable for every demographic -- until the unchecked mass immigration of recent decades replaced our gradually lessening decadence with one far worse.

  • We mandated an end to racial bigotry under the law; then we invited immigrants who impose sharia law while in their own neighborhoods, meting out a completely different justice to their own people, in blatant disregard of our Constitution.
  • We gave women the right to vote; then we welcomed immigrants who murder their own daughters for imagined slights.
  • We fought a revolution for the 1st Amendment rights of religion, assembly, and speech; then we welcomed immigrants who abuse those freedoms to organize their own clans to work toward separation (such as La Raza) and who raise their children to hate their neighbors and sponsor jihad against their hosts (such as in Wahhabist mosques and madrassahs).

Now, all this might be manageable if we had a policy, as we once did -- not just a governmental policy, but a nationally agreed-upon public philosophy -- of teaching by example, of gradually inculcating in these immigrants both the American opportunity and the American way. We were so proud, for so long, of our wonderful "melting pot" -- in which every American, regardless of birth or ethnic origin, might lose the negatives of his ancestral culture and become truly American himself, in his respect for the freedom and opportunity of his fellow citizens as well as his own.

But multiculturalism arose -- even before it had the name -- as a great monkey wrench in that American plan. 

  • We offered bilingual education, bilingual jobs, bilingual documents, that implicitly encourage immigrants to retain even the aspects of their home cultures that are contradictory to ours.
  • We turned the idea of the private ghettos of a century past on its head by governmentalizing them -- instead of living in a low-rent tenement from which you would struggle to be graduated, we offered cheap or free public housing from which it would become ever more difficult to escape.
  • Our FCC offered radio and television licenses to stations that would broadcast in Spanish, Arabic, and other languages, further raising roadblocks to the Americanization of their respective communities.
And so it is that we bear some responsibility for the horrific balkanization of America in recent decades. The tragic news stories of the third world, from fatal shootings at a wedding to honor killings of children, are no longer the foreign tales of a distant country. They are now the same stories as we experience here in the USA -- more and more every year. It's not too late -- it's never too late -- but every year that goes by, every year in which we allow our welfare state to trap another generation, every year in which we allow the evils of other cultures to permeate our own through unchecked immigration and self-destructive blindness, this great City on a Hill slips a bit more, every year more precarious, every year closer to becoming just another Yugoslavia, just another Mexico, just another Soviet Union.
"It is not one world," thank Heaven. At least not yet. But American exceptionalism -- not just in economics, but in culture and in everything else -- is a blessing to be nurtured and guarded. We won't remain the greatest country on God's green earth if we stop deserving to be.

John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based international trade compliance trainer. A former chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party, his columns appear frequently in Illinois Review.
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