July 10, 2017
His email arrived on the Fourth of July — a day etched in his memory. He remembers the barbecue and the fireworks, the red, white and blueness of it all, the safety and security of it all.
But now as he sees his own country lose its once-steady grip on democracy, he remembers the true meaning of the day.
“Fourth of July, impossible for me to forget. It means independence and freedom!!!!” he writes, and in those words — and the four exclamation marks — are all the pain and all the hope.
I will call him Murat — a common enough Turkish name — although his real name and those of his family will remain sealed away in my heart.
Once he was a judge in Turkey — a rising star — sent here to improve his English and to get an advanced degree. He was doing his thesis on freedom of the press and so he visited my office on several occasions, often to meet with other international visitors and journalists.
His July Fourth note recalled the selfie we took in my office — in front of a photo of a very young me interviewing a very young U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy.
“I have it still,” he wrote.
It seems like a thousand years ago that we took that selfie. It was long before the aborted coup in Turkey just one year ago, before President Recep Tayyip Erdogan began rounding up judges and prosecutors, journalists and civil servants. Before the descent into autocracy, and the chaos of lives turned upside down.