Despite President Trump’s allowing Turkey a stretch of land in Syria, overall relations between Turkey and the United States have soured in the seven years since my wife, Mary, and I spent our Christmas holidays in Istanbul. During that more conciliatory time we could not help notice the sense of comic festivity, sympathetic to the West, on the streets of this thoroughly Islamic country. We Westerners hardly felt as much at home as we would have on New York’s Fifth Avenue at this holiday time, but we did feel welcome. No doubt that level of good humored comfort had partly to do with Turkey’s desire (and need) for retail sales, but Islam in Istanbul then appeared reasonably friendly to us and by no means our inveterate enemy. Since then President Erdogan’s authoritarianism and impatience with secularism in Turkey has cast doubt on the degree of that friendliness.
The Nutcrackers we saw here on the streets of Istanbul were a fitting symbol of the mixture of protective independence and good cheer we remained aware of all during our week long stay in Istanbul.