N & P: Early September Fire-and-Snow Edition

Friday, September 11, 2020

The big news in Bozeman this past week was the fire that broke out in the Bridger Mountains last Friday. The fire had started just over the big "M," a well-known (if a trifle Hoxhaesque) Bozeman landmark located outside of town, about six miles to the north of the MSU campus. 

I had, in fact, just gone for a hike at Drinking Horse Mountain, which is located across the road from the "M" (which you can see just to the right of the rooftop in the picture above). After riding my bike back home, I noticed small wisps of smoke just above it. By Saturday, however, the Bridgers had become an inferno. On Saturday night I could see the fires burning orange up top.   

Sunday was also hot, and the fire grew to over 7000 acres, but on Monday we got something of a reprieve. It being Labor Day, temperatures dropped by about sixty degrees to hit the low 30s, with rain turning into snow overnight. Somehow, we ended our 3-day weekend both freezing cold and on fire, but I guess that's pretty much the way things are rolling in 2020. 


The Bozone has been producing more than its fair share of news this week. That's usually not a good sign. 

The snow did a good job of subduing the fire, and by the end of the week the weather was clear and beautiful again. However, 28 homes were lost in the foothills to the north of town. 


Our short-lived municipal
imbroglio is over


Also happening in the 406 this week: Bozeman's mayor resignefollowing allegations of bullyingDeputy Mayor Cyndy Andrus was sworn in to replace the defrocked Chris Mehl, who is presumably riding his mountain bike out to quiet exile in San Clemente right now.


It's official. The 2020 Mehmet Okur Award winner is Enes Kanter. Runner-up honors go to Ersan İlyasova. My congratulations to both of them.

The award is named after the first Turk in world history to win an NBA championship, and is presented (virtually) annually to the longest-lasting Turk in the playoffs. This year, I think there were three Turkish citizens, including Furkan Korkmaz.

Don't expect a congratulatory telephone call from the president, however: Enes Kanter has been considered a persona non grata in Turkey for the last several years due to his support for Fethullah Gülen. 

With the Pistons
in 2004

Former Piston legend Mehmet Okur was the first Turk in recorded world history to win an NBA title. A starter with the Pistons, he started coming off the bench after the arrival of Rasheed Wallace. Following the team's championship season, Okur went on to a lucrative and (wisely for the Pistons, unmatched) big-time contract with the Jazz of Utah. 

Good for him. Okur was one of the first internationals to play a key role on an NBA championship team, and as such played an important role in the league's history. Having a Turkish guy play for my favorite basketball team, and then see them win the championship--well, that was a trifecta of joy. 

His career remains much appreciated, at least up here at the Borderlands Lodge.  



I had just started my first year of the PhD program at Brown--I think it was our second week of classes. The first class of the day for me five days a week was first-year Arabic at 9 am. I had probably left home at a quarter to nine or so, so I hadn't heard anything about the plane hitting the World Trade Center by the time I got to class. None of us had, in those days before wireless internet, nor did any of us know what had happened by the time class had ended fifty minutes later. 

After class, I walked across campus and over to the library. By this time, both planes had already crashed into the Trade Center and the Pentagon had been hit, yet I was still totally oblivious to what was going on. Entering the Rockefeller Library I saw a large whiteboard, stationed at the building's entrance, reading: 

"NY-DC Terror Info: Room 205"

I read this sign, and then walked right past it, forgetting its contents immediately. I had assumed it was some sort of conference or seminar that the public policy school was involved with, and gave it no more thought.

Granted, I was a bit groggy--I hadn't had any breakfast yet and had just sat through an hour of first-year Arabic--but more than anything I think my response was probably typical of the American mindset at the time. The possibility of something like this happening in the US was just not on my radar that morning--despite the fact that I had spent seven years of my life living in a country that, much more than the United States, was occasionally witness to outlandish acts of terrorism. Sitting down at one of the computers in the library, I just wanted to quickly check my email and the news, then I figured I'd go get something to eat. 

I went on to CNN's website--not because I thought anything was afoot, but rather just to see what was happening in the world that day. The page wouldn't load. Then I tried a couple of other news sites, but they weren't working, either. Was the internet down? I looked around to see if others sitting around me--there were just a couple of people in the room--were having more success than I was. I noticed that the girl sitting across the way from me was red-faced and crying softly. Someone else had put on an "I (heart) NY" t-shirt. 

Then I remembered the whiteboard at the library's entrance. 

I gathered up my things and walked up to Room 205, where a TV had been turned on and maybe fifteen people or so were watching. The crowd from the room spilled out into the corridor.  Just as I was reaching the very back of the crowd, a collective cry of anguish erupted from inside. The second tower had just collapsed. Years later, I would learn that a high school classmate of mine had died in this building on that day, possibly at this very moment. 

I walked over to the people standing at the back of the room, spilling out into the foyer. 

"What's going on?" I asked.  


While 9/11 and the Iraq War now seem like they occurred in a very different era from our present one, these events continue to resonate. One of DJT's relatively few consistent policy viewpoints, at least insofar as international relations are concerned, is a clear and abiding suspicion of getting involved in an armed conflict in the Middle East, an approach that was certainly informed by the Iraq War and which without question led to the US pullout from Syria, leading to a greater Turkish role in the conflict

In Iraq, meanwhile, people are still trying to come to terms with a series of dramatic traumas that have been inflicted upon them, first by Saddam Hussein and then the war, occupation, and armed conflicts that have followed.  

When Americans think of 9/11, it is often with a sense of victimization. That's understandable, but it is also important to think about the events that preceded the attacks, as well as the terrible choices that were made in the months and years to follow. While the story of 9/11 itself was horrific, our response to the attacks didn't have to involve compounding this destruction, death, and violence. Beyond the thousands of innocent individuals who were on September 11, hundreds of thousands more would die in the attacks' aftermath for no good reason. 

For that reason, perhaps even more than remembering 9/11 itself, I think it's important to recall 9/12--i.e., what started taking place the day after the attacks.  


Are you a Turk across empires? Order a copy today, then get another one for your library.

More commentary, photos, and links can be found in the Borderlands Lounge. 

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