Our country only gets to celebrate its bicentenary once. One would hope that there would be an unspoken truce, even for just 24 hours. A truce to halt the division and the swearing. Even in a time of war, enemies respect important days. Some do not. Some did not live up to the moment and are part of a long tradition that seeks to include division as part of our DNA.
In their dreams they picture themselves as Theodoros Kolokotronis, Aris Velouchiotis, or whatever else. They go fishing in the murky waters of an exhausted society that has reached its limits with the pandemic. And it was a bad, very bad, twist of fate that the celebration of our bicentennial coincided with this unprecedented crisis. Many people did not want grand events right now.
As angry as these people are, as intolerant as they may be toward any missteps by their leaders, they all share some inherent values, no matter the weather. No one can make them feel bad or ask them to apologize for getting emotional when they witness the Greek flag or hear the heavy step of the evzones of the Presidential Guard. Whether leftist, right-wing, or centrist, they feel these as an intrinsic part of their identity. Anyone who wants to label them as an authoritarian or a fascist is sowing a seed that cannot prosper in this field. Any smart aleck who confuses their media narcissism with the banners of the Revolution needs help. We have entered a dangerous period.
In the years following the fall of the dictatorship we supposedly learned our lesson. We had all decided as a nation to bury the hatchet and the demons of the past. Now some people are unearthing them and in a violent, almost hooligan-like, fashion creating trouble. The danger is if we allow them to make us all into hooligans. Because in this new public discourse we see the only one who is heard is the one that insults, swears, and spits in the face of their opponents. The danger is that these extremes will lead us all to the edge. I can already feel this around me. People who were calm and wise are starting to become enraged and move toward the political extremes. In a “stadium” where everyone acts like a hooligan, either you do too, or you choose to not go.
Staying away from this “stadium” is not a solution obviously. We will defend what we believe in and what is self-evident, whether our history or values. We want a modern society which respects our differences and where the modern is mixed with our tradition. The heirs of the heroism of the Revolution are those that guard our borders, the doctors and nurses that guard Thermopylae every night, the members of the armed forces who give their very being to their job for very little pay, the businessmen who have stayed on their feet despite the crisis and the pandemic, the young Greeks in startup businesses that will help rid the land of debt and misery. These for now. As for our history, we are lucky because we found ourselves on its right side during the War of Independence, in the early 20th century when Greece grew dramatically in size, in 1944 when Greece avoided becoming Bulgaria, in 1979 when we became part of the core nucleus of Europe.
No one had the intent of starting dated, ahistorical, and fateful, arguments. We had solved these existential issues many years ago. But we cannot be victims of a badly thought-out dignity and a reserve of guilt that is starting to run dry. Enough.