Full of passionate intensity

Until very recently, we in Greece were used to seeing Americans, especially Greek Americans, as apolitical creatures who would look upon our own passionate party preferences and «anti-imperialist» analyses with a certain apathy and knowing smiles. This stemmed from their deeply rooted self-confidence and the conviction that they were citizens of a country which gave them every opportunity to do well and guaranteed their security in the world. The September 11 attacks dissolved this blessed sense of security. Then the invasion of Iraq transformed America’s relations with much of the rest of the world. On top of this, President George W. Bush’s sharp turn to the right domestically did much to divide society and awaken political passions. Greeks know all about division and political fanaticism. Geographically and historically at the crossroads between East and West, we have learned to understand the arguments and behavior of other nations. For example, we can understand both the Palestinians’ need for a free homeland and the Israelis’ need for security. We are the wise orphans of great ancestors and bright empires which live on in our collective memory. And yet we were surprised by the change that September 11 wrought in the Americans. We also did not realize that in this new era of the Internet, we all know what the other says and thinks. All over the world, people are writing and reading and judging each other. The passionate intensity born of division makes many of us rush to prejudge the opinions of others if they do not seem to agree with ours. In the harsh light between black and white, we lose the valuable gray area in which civilized dialogue can be held in an effort to reach solutions. The simplicity of conflict may appear most satisfying to those involved in a dispute but they do not help make the world a better place.