A new custom

Ever since Greece became a popular destination for migrants, the country’s national celebrations have commenced with a new custom: that is, the dispute over whether foreign students who have scored top marks in the Greek education system have the right to carry the flag in school parades. Although new legislation allows them to do so, some segments of society have as much respect for that as we – rulers and ruled alike – have for legality in general. Spurred on – though, not necessarily – by populist media and opportunist politicians, these people use the pretext of flag-carrying to express their extreme, quasi-racist nationalism. Shifting the focus from parades to sports events is enough to showcase the groundlessness of the, so to speak, «nationally correct arguments» that are invoked by those who view the prospect of an Albanian carrying the flag as the second fall of Constantinople. So far, none of those vociferous xenophobes ever protested the sight of the Greek flag being carried in the hands of a former alien athlete who has been naturalized with summary – and certainly not perfectly legal – procedures. Why are we overwhelmed with national pride when Mirella Manjani, an Albanian in athletics and origin, celebrates victory by raising the Greek flag, while we display our nationalist reflexes when faced with the prospect of some Odhise Qena, born an Albanian though educated in Greek, carrying the Greek flag? There are two reasons for this: First, when a naturalized athlete throws her javelin farther than us, she does not offend our sense of superiority. This, however, is insulted when a foreign pupil scores higher marks than our children. Second, the victory of a naturalized person eventually goes down as an authentic Greek victory, thus validating our vanity. This is why our «genuine feelings» are manifested in such biased and self-serving fashion.