Her parents had just had another one of their arguments, and that night she swallowed all the pills she could find — two entire bottles. She fell asleep quickly and was taken to the hospital, where doctors pumped out her stomach. She was 13.
Perhaps it was only an attempt that time. Perhaps she wasn’t really trying to kill herself, but was crying out for help instead. She doesn’t remember.
Sema (not her real name) is now 27. She is sitting in a Turkish café in Berlin’s Mitte district that she sometimes frequents.
Her father was 15 when he came to Germany from Turkey, and her mother is also Turkish. The parents moved from Hamburg to Berlin, where Sema grew up as a German child in a Turkish family.
She has thick kohl eyeliner under her big eyes, and she wears her dark hair tied together in a braid. She smokes a lot, and every time she coughs she smiles, as if to apologize.
When her parents moved to Berlin, her father opened a coffee shop and her mother washed clothes for other people. They worked hard to make a better life for themselves.
There were few Turkish children in the neighborhood at the time, and Sema went to kindergarten with German children. But when the children were served pork, her parents kept her home. She was alone a lot at the time, and she remained alone throughout school.
Sema’s father forbade her from playing with the other children in her class, saying that they were Turks and not Germans. Germany was their opportunity, not their new home. Sema cleaned the apartment and cooked for herself, eating eggs, French fries and beef sausages.
Her family believed that the more they worked, the faster they would succeed in this new country. But they didn’t.
Five Times as Likely to Commit Suicide
Berlin has about 170,000 residents of Turkish descent. For several months last summer, life-sized posters were displayed in subway stations and on advertising columns. They included a hotline telephone number and one sentence, written in both German and Turkish: “End your silence, not your life!”
Meryam Schouler-Ocak , the physician-in-chief at the psychiatric clinic of Berlin’s highly respected Charité hospital, is behind the poster campaign. Her office is in the St. Hedwig hospital, not far from the café where Sema is sitting.
Schouler-Ocak is of Turkish origin. She has been hearing young Turkish women’s stories for years. And ever since she saw the numbers corresponding to the stories, she has also been doing something about it.
Young German women of Turkish origin, she says, are five times as likely to attempt to commit suicide as non-immigrant women of the same age, and they are twice as likely to succeed.
During the poster campaign, Schouler-Ocak gathered all the information she could find. She found some information in the medical literature, but not much. At a hospital in Frankfurt, she learned that it was often young women of Turkish origin who tried to commit suicide.
But what were the reasons?
Schouler-Ocak and some of her colleagues put together a proposal for a project and secured the support of the Ministry of Education and Research. She staffed the hotline that was listed on the posters with two women who were also from immigrant backgrounds. She had interviews conducted and obtained additional data from emergency rooms in Berlin and Hamburg. Schouler-Ocak plans to analyze the data by the end of the year.
The reasons why young women of Turkish descent try to commit suicide extend beyond the much-reported issues of arranged marriages, honor killings and threats from the family. Sometimes the process starts out harmlessly, quietly and without any violence. Schouler-Ocak is now well aware of this.
The problem affects young women who were born in Germany and are in fact well integrated into German society, but still face pressures associated with their origins.
Desire to Be German
When Sema’s father opened his coffee shop, things didn’t run smoothly at first. The father came home late in the evening, and sometimes he was drunk and shouted at the family. Sitting on the sofa in their apartment, Sema and her mother could already hear the father shouting in the stairwell.
Sema crept into her parents’ bed at night and slept there. She would be alone the next day, cleaning and eating. Her father began coming home later and later, and he fought with her mother.
The mother wanted a divorce when Sema was eight, but the father threatened to take away their child. What good was a Turkish father without a family? He took Sema, flew back to Turkey with her and returned to the small village he had come from.
It was sunnier there than it is in Berlin, says Sema as she sits in the café and remembers those days. In Turkey, Sema, a child from the big city, had other children to play with and, for the first time, she finally had her father.
Sema thought that she was the reason her mother had become unhappy back in Berlin.
She would have liked to be German like her German girlfriends who she secretly met. Her friends could do as they pleased when they were on vacation. Sema told them that she too was going on vacation, a family vacation at the beach. Instead, she stayed at home and played by herself in front of her parents’ apartment building.
Her German girlfriends celebrated Easter and Christmas, but Sema didn’t. She lived in the German world like someone living in a bubble in which she could move around, but only with great care. She would alternate between the German and Turkish worlds, but she felt at home in neither one. Who was she?
One night, after her parents had had another one of their arguments, she swallowed all the pills she could find — two entire bottles. She was taken to the hospital, where doctors pumped out her stomach. She was 13 when she tried to kill herself for the first time…
Sixty-six years ago, we dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima. Now, some historians say that’s not what ended the war
August 8, 2011
What ended World War II?
For nearly seven decades, the American public has accepted one version of the events that led to Japan’s surrender. By the middle of 1945, the war in Europe was over, and it was clear that the Japanese could hold no reasonable hope of victory. After years of grueling battle, fighting island to island across the Pacific, Japan’s Navy and Air Force were all but destroyed. The production of materiel was faltering, completely overmatched by American industry, and the Japanese people were starving. A full-scale invasion of Japan itself would mean hundreds of thousands of dead GIs, and, still, the Japanese leadership refused to surrender.
But in early August 66 years ago, America unveiled a terrifying new weapon, dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In a matter of days, the Japanese submitted, bringing the fighting, finally, to a close.
On Aug. 6, the United States marks the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing’s mixed legacy. The leader of our democracy purposefully executed civilians on a mass scale. Yet the bombing also ended the deadliest conflict in human history.
In recent years, however, a new interpretation of events has emerged. Tsuyoshi Hasegawa – a highly respected historian at the University of California, Santa Barbara – has marshaled compelling evidence that it was the Soviet entry into the Pacific conflict, not Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that forced Japan’s surrender. His interpretation could force a new accounting of the moral meaning of the atomic attack. It also raises provocative questions about nuclear deterrence, a foundation stone of military strategy in the postwar period. And it suggests that we could be headed towards an utterly different understanding of how, and why, the Second World War came to its conclusion.
“Hasegawa has changed my mind,” says Richard Rhodes, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Making of the Atomic Bomb.” “The Japanese decision to surrender was not driven by the two bombings.”
President Truman’s decision to go nuclear has long been a source of controversy. Many, of course, have argued that attacking civilians can never be justified. Then, in the 1960s, a “revisionist school” of historians suggested that Japan was in fact close to surrendering before Hiroshima – that the bombing was not necessary, and that Truman gave the go-ahead primarily to intimidate the Soviet Union with our new power.
Hasegawa – who was born in Japan and has taught in the United States since 1990, and who reads English, Japanese, and Russian – rejects both the traditional and revisionist positions. According to his close examination of the evidence, Japan was not poised to surrender before Hiroshima, as the revisionists argued, nor was it ready to give in immediately after the atomic bomb, as traditionalists have always seen it. Instead, it took the Soviet declaration of war on Japan, several days after Hiroshima, to bring the capitulation.
Both the American and Japanese public have clung to the idea that the mushroom clouds ended the war. For the Japanese, Hiroshima is a potent symbol of their nation as victim, helping obscure their role as the aggressors and in atrocities that include mass rapes and beheading prisoners of war. For the Americans, Hiroshima has always been a means justified by the end.
“This seems to touch a nerve,” observes Hasega…
August 8, 2011
It seems appropriate that the city where America’s movies are made has enjoyed such a dramatic trajectory. Los Angeles began the twentieth century with barely 100,000 residents. By century’s end, 4 million people were living there, making it the nation’s second-largest city, while another 6 million were occupying the rest of Los Angeles County.
But in the new century, Los Angeles has begun to fade, and it can’t blame its sorry condition on the recent recession. The unemployment rate is one of the highest among the nation’s largest urban areas. Streets are potholed. Businesses and residents are fleeing. In virtually every category of urban success, from migration of educated workers to growth of airport travel, Los Angeles lags behind not only such fast-growth regions as Dallas, Houston, and Raleigh-Durham, but also historical rivals like New York.
Perhaps worst of all is the perception, both here and elsewhere, that Los Angeles no longer matters as much as it once did. “I’ve traveled the world, and there was once a great mystique about L.A., but it’s gone,” says Robert Hertzberg, a former mayoral candidate and onetime speaker of the California State Assembly. “And I look at the leadership, and it’s gone. No one much cares.”
Such pessimism, commonly heard these days, is an unwelcome development in a city that once epitomized the promise of twentieth-century America. L.A.’s greatness stemmed from its willingness to be different. Other New York rivals—Chicago, Denver, Kansas City—tried to turn themselves into mini-Manhattans. The Los Angeles metro area, by contrast, was boldly designed not around a central core but on a series of centers, connected first by railcars and later by the freeways: Pasadena, the San Fernando Valley, West Los Angeles, Culver City, Burbank, West Hollywood, and others. Los Angeles was also one of the first cities in the nation to impose comprehensive zoning.
The result was what the early-twentieth-century clergyman Dana Bartlett called “a better city,” a dispersed metropolis where most people occupied single-family houses in middle-class neighborhoods. Here, said geographer J. Russell Smith, the differences among “city life, suburban life and country life” blurred. Blessed with a mild climate, clear vistas, ample land, and a lightly industrialized economy, the city, Bartlett predicted, would become “a place of inspiration for nobler living.” Los Angeles, said journalist Carey McWilliams, was “the first modernized decentralized industrial city in America”—and it would not be the last, as anyone familiar with Dallas, Denver, or Houston will recognize.
But Los Angeles wasn’t satisfied with just being a better place; its turn-of-the-century business leaders saw the potential for greatness. Business leaders have always been key to cities’ economic growth, whether in New York’s overcoming Boston and Philadelphia as the country’s most important city in the early nineteenth century or, some years later, in Chicago’s conquest of St. Louis for midwestern dominance. In Los Angeles, forward-looking and often ruthless men, such as Harrison Gray Otis of theLos Angeles Times, pushed a city with no natural port or secure water supply ahead of its two more naturally favored rivals, San Francisco and San Diego. In a move enthusiastically endorsed by its business leadership, L.A. secretively purchased land in the southern Sierras to lock up mountain glaciers and the water that flowed from them. The region also created artificial ports, one at Long Beach and another, inside the city limits, at San Pedro. Needing electricity, it turned to its large oil supply and to federal hydroelectric plants (and, much later, to coal-fired electricity imported from distant Utah).
The strategy, a combination of vaulting ambition and careful planning, worked brilliantly. Lured by the pleasant climate and a business-dominated political economy, industries and entrepreneurs flocked to the Los Angeles area. Initially, the growth came largely from oil and agriculture, but by the 1920s, the nascent movie industry had settled in Hollywood, putting Los Angeles on the world map. By 1940, the county’s population, barely 300,000 in 1900, had grown fivefold, bumping San Francisco off the top of the list of California’s biggest urban areas. The L.A. region as a whole had grown even more rapidly, to 3.5 million people.
World War II fattened Los Angeles still further. The city was a staging ground for the war against Japan, with a defense industry built up from nothing. Between 1940 and 1944, over $800 million was invested in 5,000 new industrial plants in the region, and the county’s industrial output grew from $5 billion to $12 billion during the war. Afterward, L.A.’s manufacturing firms seized opportunities in the emerging market for commercial planes and then the new military requirements of the Cold War, such as electronics-based aircraft and missiles. This fostered the growth of a vast industrial base for the city—oil and gas companies like Getty Oil, Atlantic Richfield, and Occidental Petroleum, utility giants like Southern California Edison, and eventually a garment industry. These firms attracted both high-end engineers and a large cadre of skilled and semiskilled blue-collar workers. From 1940 to the mid-1970s, the number of technical and professional workers statewide jumped at five times the rate along the East Coast.
As these opportunity-seeking newcomers rushed to L.A., the city experienced a remarkable real-estate boom. That, in turn, ignited the growth of scores of ancillary industries to serve the needs of the new residents, such as the manufacturing of auto parts, plumbing fixtures, and furniture. These industries were widely dispersed, and so were their employees, who could commute great distances at high speeds along the newly built freeway network. East Coast urbanists hated the form; Jane Jacobs, for instance, denounced Los Angeles as a “vast, blind-eyed reservation.” But people continued to move to a place that offered the promise of urban opportunity along with a single-family house, a swimming pool, and access to beaches and mountains.
By the 1980s, Los Angeles had surpassed New York as the nation’s largest port and Chicago as the nation’s leading industrial center. And by the 1990s, its garment district—fed by immigrant entrepreneurs and workers—employed more people than New York’s did and increasingly dominated even the fashion side, particularly in the growing sportswear market. Add to this the glitter of Hollywood, and you saw a city of superlatives.
True, the region hit a rough spot in the late 1980s, as the end of the Cold War led to massive federal cutbacks in aerospace, hammering the city’s economy. Los Angeles County lost nearly 500,000 jobs between 1990 and 1993. The high unemployment was accompanied by a climate of rising political dysfunction under Mayor Tom Bradley. In 1992 came the infamous Rodney King riots, which damaged the city’s reputation as a place of multicultural tolerance.
But Los Angeles, unlike post-riot Detroit and post-industrial Cleveland, recovered from its tough times. Between 1993 and 1999, the county regained nearly 400,000 of its lost jobs. Though aerospace never fully recovered, other parts of the industrial belt, including the port and the apparel and entertainment industries, gained jobs. Perhaps even more important was that an entrepreneurial class of immigrants—Middle Eastern, Korean, Chinese, Latino—began nurturing new businesses in everything from textiles and ethnic food to computers. The pro-business mayoralty of Richard Riordan and the governorship of Pete Wilson restored confidence among the city’s beleaguered businesses…
August 8, 2011
August 8, 2011