OPINION

Letters to the Editor

As a Greek American currently living in Greece, it is distressing to read letters from Greek Americans living in America expressing their dismay and disgust at the Greek media for analytical critiques of America after the recent attacks. It seems to me that these attitudes stem from a basic lack of knowledge and understanding, not only of the Greek media but also of the rest of the world. Unfortunately, because America’s media primarily concentrate on America, most average Americans know very little about the rest of the world, while the average person in the rest of the world knows much about America. It is equally unfortunate that most average Americans have either known very little or seem to have cared very little about the effects of America’s policies and actions around the world because they never really directly affected them one way or another. Because of its fortunate and enviable geographical position of splendid isolation bordered by friendly neighbors, America has never experienced the suffering and privations of a prolonged real war at its borders or on its doorstep. To most Americans, the word war conjures up benign images of a 1960s war on poverty, an ongoing war on drugs, a 1990s war of cultural values, and now a new millennium patriotic war on terrorism. On the other hand, to the rest of the world’s billions, including Greeks, the word war has far greater meaning and conjures up less benign images. These peoples have either experienced the total devastation of real wars in the not-too-distant past or are experiencing the devastation of real wars in the present. While Americans now, understandably, are rallying around the flag, the rest of the world, although saddened and horrified by the loss of innocent lives, is justifiably fearful of what America’s new declaration of war will ultimately mean for them, who are not so fortunate in their geographical positioning. Perhaps it is because the rest of the world is more interconnected geographically, it is in turn more interconnected in attitude and more questioning. While a Greek can drive from Athens to Copenhagen and in the process cross the borders of several countries – some of which are in the Balkans and still in a state of real semi-war – an American can drive a similar distance in peace from Boston to Florida or Canada. Hence, the worldwide trepidation. Because of its alliances with NATO and the EU, the Greek government’s position is consistent with that of the rest of Europe in solidarity with America. That is its responsibility to be so. The Greek media, as well as the world media (including the American media), has the responsibility to inform, examine, analyze and, yes, to be critical when need be – not to be cheerleaders. These critical analyses are currently evident in newspapers throughout Europe, not just in Greece. It could even be argued that the critical analyses provided by the free and independent press throughout the world may be playing a positive role in the wise restraint America has, thus far, shown in its response. If Greece were America today, with the same superpower status and the same history, and if it had suffered a similar attack, you can be sure that after the initial shock, the Greek media would be as critical – if not more so – of its own government and its actions than what Greek Americans perceive it to be as far as America is concerned. That is the nature of the Greek media. While criticizing the Greek media from afar, perhaps Greek Americans should also look more critically at the American media when it provides unbalanced sensationalist coverage of minor events in Greece and blows them way out of proportion to their significance, leaving an irresponsible and mistaken impression of a sweeping anti-American sentiment in Greece. When American TV stations showed footage of a few Greek soccer hooligans attempting to destroy an American flag, did they also bother to show footage of the lines of Greeks waiting at the American Embassy in Athens to sign the condolence book or to leave flowers? Did they bother to print or air the words of Prime Minister Simitis or Foreign Minister George Papandreou in their expressions of the nation’s sorrow and solidarity with America? Did they bother to talk to Americans living in Greece to learn of the expressions of sympathy they received from their Greek neighbors? Were these actions just not sensationalist enough to air? Perhaps if the American media had done so, Greek Americans and all Americans would have a more realistic perception of what the actual sentiment is in Greece. Perhaps it is time for Greek Americans to show a little more confidence and have a little more faith in the land of their forefathers by not prematurely and mistakenly assuming the worst. And perhaps it is time for Greek Americans to express their outrage at the American media for sensationalist, and unbalanced, coverage of Greece in the American press, rather than venting their anger and dismay against Greece in the Greek press. Stevia Dounelis Lynch Athens God bless Greece, God bless the USA I write in response to the letter to the editor from American archaeologist Stephen Miller (September 28, 2001). I, too, am an archaeologist with long and strong ties to the country of Greece, its people, its history and its cultural traditions. My work covers all of Greek history from the arrival of the Indo-European speakers to the study and interpretation of the first writing systems used in Western civilization (Linear A and Linear B) and most recently to the comparisons that can be drawn between the experiences of warfare in ancient Greece and those in the 20th and now 21st century. I have lived in Greece many times since 1976 (in 1979-80 as a Fulbright scholar) and I have held a MacArthur fellowship for my work on Aegean scripts and prehistory. I have set up a research institute devoted to this field. I can say that in many ways I have given my life to what Greek culture stands for, and I do this gladly. My own views, as well as those of one of my best friends in the field of Mycenology, ironically were expressed in an opinion piece in the London Times Higher Education Supplement the same day as Professor Miller’s. In it I speak of the need for Americans not merely to look in the mirror, but to see ourselves as the rest of the world sees us. I think that Professor Miller’s letter proves we Americans still have a long way to go. My answer to Professor Miller’s rhetorical questions is that, of course, he and the American contributors to the Nemea project have done much good, economically, culturally and personally for Greeks in Nemea and for Greece in general. I doubt whether any Greek burned an American flag in hatred of the Nemea project or Professor Miller. But it is disingenuous to interpret world events entirely through one’s own personal experiences. I would ask Prof. Miller to contemplate American foreign policy in Greece during the years 1967-1976 and ask why political discussions in Greek kapheneia turned away from the pro-American sentiments symbolized by the pictures of John F. Kennedy that hung on many of their walls and turned toward criticisms of why the United States supported a military junta in the motherland of Western intellectual freedom, a junta that banned the reading of Plato and Euripides and Aristophanes. I would also ask Prof. Miller to read the speeches of Pericles in Book 2 of Thucydides, one with its glowing praise of the ideals of ancient Athens, the other with its brutally pragmatic discussion of what ancient Athens must do to hold onto an empire acquired through force and coercive terror. Separately, each speech is a lie. Together, both speeches are true. Let him apply this lesson to the USA and see the mix of good and bad that makes some people hate us and others be fearful of our power. If I were in his situation, I would explain to my American donors and friends of Nemea and Greece how complex is the history of relations between East and West and between superpowers and other nations. I would read Thucydides with them. I would ask them to pray that Thucydides’ nightmare vision of civil war spreading to other countries during a time of superpower troubles is not realized in the land for which we share a strong love: Greece, itself birthplace of democracy and also transmitter of the word tyranny to Western culture. God bless the people of Greece. God bless the people of America. God bless the people of Afghanistan. God bring us all justice and peace. Thomas G. Palaima Dickson Centennial Professor of Classics, Director, Program in Aegean Scripts and