The Monthly Editorial Blog By Schlafly Beer Co-Founder Tom Schlafly
Just as there once was a Camelot, there was a time not so long ago when July was known as American Beer Month. Now, not only is there no longer a month dedicated to American beer; there’s also not all that much American beer to which a month can be dedicated. Since the heyday of American Beer Month, less than ten years ago, the market share of American-owned breweries in the United States has declined by about 90 percent, primarily because of foreign acquisitions of American breweries.
Lest we Americans be tempted to cry in our beer, whoever brewed it, we should rejoice in the fact that our right to drink beer is not currently under siege, at least not as much as it is in Turkey. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose disregard for other civil liberties has been well documented, recently pushed through a law that severely restricts the right to drink alcohol, explaining that “religion demands” such legislation. Not surprisingly, Erdogan’s campaign has not been well received by freedom-loving Turks, lots of whom enjoy glasses of Efes, a beer brewed in Istanbul, or raki, an anise-flavored drink with an alcohol content of about 50%.
Turan Eroglu, the manager of a bar in Isparta, a college town about 350 miles south of Istanbul, compared Erdogan’s prohibitionism to that of Murad IV, a notorious Sultan of the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century. Murad, who reigned from 1623 to 1640, banned alcohol, tobacco and coffee. He patrolled the streets at night in civilian clothes and ordered the execution of hapless individuals caught violating his ban.
Erdogan’s laws against alcohol represent not only a return to the policies of Murad IV, but also a rejection of the reforms introduced by Mustafa Kemal, Ataturk, the so-called “Father of the Turks,” whom Erdogan has denounced as a “drunkard” because of his fondness for raki. Among the reforms implemented by Ataturk, who served as Turkey’s president from 1923 to 1938, were measures promoting equality for women and expanding educational opportunities for girls. In 1927 he founded the State Art and Sculpture Museum, overcoming an Islamic taboo on idolatry. In 1928 he introduced a new Turkish alphabet, which replaced the old Arabic script and helped the literacy rate skyrocket from 10% to 70% within two years. In 1933 Ataturk modernized Istanbul University and established Ankara University in the nation’s capital. In 1934 Turkey granted full political rights to women, years before several other European nations. Ataturk’s legacy also includes changing the name of Turkey’s largest city from Constantinople to Istanbul.
The city had been founded in the 7th century BC by the Greeks, who called it Byzantium. After the Roman Emperor Constantine I moved the imperial capital from Rome to Byzantium in 330 AD, the city was renamed Constantinople (City of Constantine) in his honor. On March 28, 1930 the Turkish Postal Service Law officially changed the name to Istanbul, which was derived from a Greek phrase commonly found on road signs directing travelers “to the city.”
This name change subsequently inspired a song titled “Istanbul, not Constantinople”, which was recorded by The Four Lads on August 12, 1953 and includes the following memorable stanza:
Take me back to Constantinople.
No, you can’t go back to Constantinople.
Now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople.
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That’s nobody’s business but the Turks’.
Sixty years later this song inspired me to come up with alternate lyrics to the same tune for the Courthouse Steps, a group of singing lawyers for whom I write songs:
At the NSA we’re constantly snooping.
Big Brother here is constantly snooping.
On your private lives we’re constantly snooping.
There is nothing that we don’t surveill.
We’re reading all of your e-mail.
In fairness to the NSA, it’s worth pointing out that we have been told that it’s not monitoring all communication. Apparently there’s not as much interest in domestic communication as there is in communication between the United States and overseas. In other words, the NSA presumably doesn’t care about intra-company communication at Schlafly Beer. It might, however, want to monitor communication between other breweries doing business in the United States and their home offices in Europe, Brazil and South Africa.