When things feel like they are going bad in the U.S., what I like to do to make me feel better is look around the world to find a country that is having worse problems than we are.
Trust me, there are plenty.
Last time I did this, I talked about the power struggle in The Gambia, where the nation’s outgoing president refused to step down after he was democratically voted out of office. It was an episode that required military intervention from neighboring countries, and fortunately ended peacefully.
Today I’d like to discuss a country that’s northern half is part of Europe, and bottom half is part of Asia, and yet, neither continent probably wants any of it: Turkey.
Outside observers have long concluded that Turkey has been experiencing a democratic backslide under the rule of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who served as prime minister from 2003 to 2014, and president after that.
The average person likely doesn’t know who Erdogan is. But you may have heard his name in a bizarre story that went viral in 2014 that underscores his perceived authoritarian rule. That involved a Turkish man who was arrested in 2014 after he compared Erdogan to Gollum on social media. Last year, the man was slapped with a one-year prison sentence.
Imagine that happening in America. If we locked up everyone who badmouthed Trump on social media, the only people left standing would be Sean Hannity and the entire state of Kentucky. And I would be in Guantanamo.
But those are the type of things that happen in Turkey. The country has been largely criticized in recent years for its tendency to turn a blind eye to ISIS fighters traveling through the country to get to other European nations.
That being said, it certainly doesn’t diminish the fact that Turkey has also been victimized by deadly attacks from terrorists.
Erdogan’s regime has become even more oppressive since a surprise coup attempt last July, when members of the military organized overnight to – unsuccessfully – overthrow his regime.
Since then, his regime has suspended or fired more than 12,000 government employees, and arrested some 50,000 soldiers, police officers, teachers, judges, academics and lawmakers suspected of being dissidents.
Turkey also jailed more journalists than any other country in 2016, a number estimated to have reached greater than 150.
And it’s only getting worse. Earlier this year, the Turkish Parliament voted to allow a referendum that would give the president of the country – who happens to be Erdogan – greater power and authority. Historically in the country, the prime minister is the government chief and president is mostly a ceremonial role.
The vote in parliament was so contentious that one opposition lawmaker was sent to the hospital after having her prosthetic arm ripped off in a fistfight on the Parliament floor.
The referendum on the new Constitution is in April, and it’s actually led to international diplomatic disputes as Turkey has been seeking to campaign in countries where Turkish citizens live abroad.
But after Germany and the Netherlands refused to let Turkish officials in their country to do so, the Turkish government called the two countries “Nazis” and “fascists.”
So, as you can see, things are going awfully swell in Turkey.
Now this isn’t to say that we should observe the chaos happening abroad and consequently shrug off the problems happening here as trivial matters, but it does help to offer a little perspective.
Today, House Republicans postponed the vote on the new health care bill once they realized they didn’t have enough votes to approve it. But don’t celebrate … they will be back, and whatever they bring with them will not be good for lower-class Americans.
And with each passing day, the links between Trump associates and Russian officials continues to grow.
So things aren’t quite peachy here either.
But hey, at least we live in a country where I get to call our president Gollum, Sauron, Voldemort, Darth Vader, King Joffrey, Scar from the Lion King, the Wicked Witch, Cruella de Vil, Dr. Evil, Walter White, the Boogie Man and Donald Trump combined.
That’s right, I’m making a bold prediction that in 20 years from now, we’ll unanimously consider Donald Trump synonymous to a cartoon fictional villain.
Until then, we’ll keep trying him out as the top executive of the most powerful nation in the world.
Should go well.