Opposing hatred, violence and terrorism is not a political or ideological act. It is something that requires an unwavering commitment from all of us. Without asterisks, without footnotes, without ifs and buts, without calculations. All mothers grieve the same for their children. All children mourn their parents in the same way. Death is the great equalizer.
The fact that Greece, unlike the rest of Europe, has not fully resolved the threat of domestic terrorism is specifically the result of its political system’s failure to reach the necessary consensus and consent on an issue that should be self-evident: that life is sacred and no one has the right to end it.
The be-all and end-all is democracy itself and the rule of law; the institutions, the laws and the rules that apply to everyone equally, with no exceptions or exemptions. They also apply to a professional serial killer, of course. Woe betide us if justice is tailor-made to suit every blackmailing criminal, and his sentencing and conditions of incarceration are adjusted to suit his whims.
The state is, quite rightly, exhausting every legal avenue to keep this particular murderer alive, displaying in practice the necessary generosity and the strength of democracy, as well as upholding European values and commitment to the rule of law. Let his family and “comrades” respond to the moment appropriately. The right to life is something he did not afford his victims. The people he shot dead were not given the choice of life and death. We, their relatives, did not have the choice to keep them alive.
My father once wrote that “the political ethos is, and progressively becomes, the ethos of society.” Public discourse brings results, but it also has consequences and can even lead to bloodshed. We saw this 40 years ago when the blatant lies paraded on the vulgar front pages of certain newspapers found their way into the manifestos of the November 17 terrorist group. They are the ones that loaded the organization’s guns.
Allow me a personal appeal with as much self-composure as I can muster. Let us not allow ourselves to be taken in by the deranged Pied Pipers of hate. We should not sleepwalk towards a swamp that threatens to swallow us whole. The murderer should be treated like a murderer, nothing else; not an opportunity or occasion for a political confrontation. His life is his own. But the lives of 10 million Greeks, including our children, are our own.
Kostas Bakoyannis is the mayor of Athens and the son of Pavlos Bakoyannis, who was gunned down by the November 17 terrorist organization in 1989.