Letters to the Editor

Violence is never the answer. I find myself in muted rage these days. As if they dressed me and they made me up and they took me to the show and they forgot to take the band-aid off my mouth. And things whirl around me and all I can do is watch but not talk. I am furious, I am enraged. More than that, I am ashamed. I cannot distinguish myself from those disillusioned people. I cannot set my frustration apart from theirs. And yet how can these actions ever be justified? I want my anger to spill, to become evident to all those watching. Shame comes over me when I think that no one is watching. No reasonable human being is watching what I am watching. Not a single human being has remained in position to grasp the point of all this drama. There is no political will, there is only bad journalism, irrelevant comments, shameless refusal to assume responsibility. Have things been relegated to this? From one night to the next we find ourselves in the middle of a social revolution that sneaked up on us and we have no idea what to do with it. And along come the unwanted elements and they prevail. They prevail to the point where there is no longer a social revolution but an interminable chaos. I fear. I am afraid that I will wake up tomorrow and the soldiers will have taken over the streets of my country. I fear that they will not let me wander the beautiful streets of my city freely, that they will impose some crazed general’s order, that they will force me to leave, that they will turn my decade-long efforts here into ashes. All I see these last four days are fires and ashes. I am mad. I am mad. Who dares to dream these days? Politics here has reached the end of the line. There is no future, there is no one to trust. Clashes break out in the morning between senior citizens, teenage boys and girls, housewives riding the bus to the market, youths desperately seeking employment. Voices are raised, tempers explode, frustration reigns. We torch the streets at night only to mourn them in the morning. Broken glass everywhere, ruined shops, middle-aged people holding their heads in their hands, blackened skies, shortness of breath. We see each other in ways we have never before, we see youths in black and we cower in silence, we suspect everyone only for being young. It is creepy, the feeling I get when walking down streets that used to be familiar. Today we have woken up to a strange city, a city alien to us, a wound broken and blackened. This is not Iraq. This is a place where the sun comes up in the morning and people rush outside and swarm the streets and speak up and enjoy all that fuss. And what has all this irresponsibility done? It has brought us to this. It has broken our community, it has forced a division among us. We are now reduced to fights between those defending the return of a military junta to end the riots and «teach those bastards a lesson» and those who believe, because they have lived through one, that a dictatorship brings about more destruction. Violence only begets violence, there are painfully recent examples of that. I am angry. I am ashamed. And I fear. M. PAPADOPOULOU, Ano Toumba, Thessaloniki.

While I am the first to decry the killing of a 15-year-old boy, I cannot help but wonder on the senselessness of the aftermath – hence some questions: 1. What was a «quiet» 15-year-old doing with a gang of youths attacking a police car in the first place? 2. In these economic times, why destroy the livelihood of people who are already hurting as a result of the global recession that has enveloped us all? 3. Why hide your faces? If you are truly exercising a democratic right to protest, why do so as a coward? 4. Why is everyone surprised that the police are nowhere in sight during the riots, when, the minute they show up, the crowd pelts them with rocks? Heaven forbid the government send in the army to keep the peace! That’s what would be done elsewhere, but in Greece, authority seems to be a dirty word. 5. Does anyone not think that perhaps the way in which police are recruited is at fault as well? In many countries, for example, police officers must have a certain amount of post-secondary education, are put through rigorous training as well as psychological testing. Maybe it’s time the word «rousfetia» [cronyism] was dropped from the Greek lexicon. I love Greece. I am a first-generation Canadian, but my heart, soul and culture are Greek. Fortunately, I have grown up in a place where I see how things work without corruption, finger pointing and violence. C.A. MARKHAM, Ontario, Canada.

Essentially your editorial (Tuesday, December 9, «Get Greece out of This Dead End») is a call for the current government to resign. Either it is an ignorant opinion or a very prejudiced one. The Karamanlis government bears no real responsibility for what is happening in the streets of Greece’s major cities. It is rather the hooded hoodlums of (mostly) the left and the anarchists who are looking for any excuse or provocation to engage in violence and in the process even replace the New Democracy government. It is sad to see that you have fallen into their trap by calling for a new government. If indeed the policeman involved in the shooting turns out to have acted improperly, let the judicial system punish him according to the law of the land. After all, that’s what real democracy is all about. You do not take to the streets and riot every time you disagree with something that happens in society. These are all excuses to «party» violently which is something deeply in-bred in the Greek character. No political party, right or left, will ever make the Greeks politically responsible unless and until such a time as the Greek individual is remolded, by education, to understand and accept civil behavior and responsibilities. Installing another government, without installing new character, is just procrastination. This is also directly attributable to the lack of any economic progress in Greece: The «fakelakia» [palm-greasing], the Vatopedi scandal etc, which are a fact in daily Greek life, go straight to this issue of character. A. J. KARBER, Irvine, California.

As a Greek American who loves Greece, I am appalled at the lack of support that the police get. Is rioting and destroying public and private property something the people and government want? It seems that the police cannot do their jobs. When they do nothing to stop rioting, the public says the police must do something. When the police shoot and kill in self-defense the government wants to bring the police to justice? What about the youths that start this? They seem to be running central Athens. The police are nothing more than a pawn in a sick game of chess. This problem clearly shows two systemic weaknesses in Greek society: 1. A government that is far weaker than it should be and incapable of maintaining the rule of law. The MPs believe if they come down too hard there will be a backlash similar to the 1974 uprising. This results in the police picking and choosing their fights, resulting in a perception of weakness. 2. A segment of the population (mainly the youth) who feel alienated and exhausted by their government. When a government cannot or will not address the needs of its people – i.e. jobs, jobs and more jobs – then the only way they feel they can get anyone to hear them is by violence and lashing out. Acting violently shows great symbolism on their part but does nothing in the long term. Rather like a crockpot blowing off steam. When you couple that with the rampant graft, cronyism and corruption in the Greek government – i.e. monastery fiasco, etc – then this is clearly the end result. The gap between the Greek government and its people has never been wider, period. PASCHALI, Tarpon Springs, FL.

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