Guardians of the flag

Once again we find ourselves deep in the controversy that erupts each year over the October 28 parade. A group of foolish parents, who also spur on their children, refuse foreign pupils who have scored top marks (most of them Albanian) the right to carry the Greek flag and threaten to boycott the celebrations. With the backing of several populist extreme right-wing politicians, these people succeed in grabbing the daily headlines. Their racist views – a remnant of the darkest manifestations of a sick understanding of nationalism that has wreaked havoc in the past – make them an embarrassment to themselves and their families and, more importantly, project a distorted view of how our society deals with the migrant issue… Foreigners entered our country en masse and without any controls in the early 1990s, but the blame lies with a government that, once again, found itself unprepared… Yet with hard work, usually under dire conditions, the foreigners gradually made significant progress; they took root in the new land; they absorbed our consumer model and acquired all the characteristics familiar to the Greek emigrants in the 1960s. In other words, these people have started to feel a part of their host countries, sending their kids to Greek schools and many of them even converting to Orthodox Christianity. Because many of them will probably never return to their fatherland, they wish their offspring to become part of Greek society. This can be to Greece’s benefit, a state suffering from a low birthrate and thus in need of fresh blood… The small minority of these self-styled guardians of the flag had better get used to the idea of foreign students who thrive and enjoy equal rights with the rest of their fellow citizens.