Modern-Day Heroics Worth Praising
Two weeks ago, three young men in Greece restored pride and dignity to Hellenism with a single heroic act. While on duty guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside Parliament, two members of the Presidential Guard (Evzones) were informed by their commanding officer that a bomb threat was called in and that an explosion in their immediate surroundings was imminent. He then gave them permission to leave their posts due to the impending danger. The soldiers' refused him with a blink of their eyes - Evzones are not allowed to speak while on duty. As an act of solidarity, their commanding officer decided to stand between them and wait for the bomb. Sure enough, the incendiary device went off, fortunately none were hurt.
The result: Faceless Greek urban guerrillas may have scored another hit against the government, momentarily glorifying their misguided nihilism, but the Greek people gained three real life heroes! The soldiers - Vassilis Vernikos and Ioannis Andreakos - and their commander Marios Theodorou, managed to send a far greater message to society, than the nihilist urban terrorists.
This past Sunday, Greeks of all ages gathered in Athens' Syntagma (Constitution) Square, in front of Parliament, with Greek flags in hand to applaud the Evzones during the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This act is telling in itself. Typically in Greece, the only reason for a civilian to publicly carry a flag (and not be labeled a right-wing extremist ) is while attending a campaign rally, or celebrating a major sports victory by the Greek national team.
These soldiers' action proved to Hellenes worldwide - and perhaps more importantly, our nation's friends and foes - that there are still people in Greece willing to die for their country. These Evzones' courageous act was symbolic, in that the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier could theoretically be the tomb of anyone who fell in service of the nation, and therefore serves as a monument to all of their sacrifices. But it was also very realistic, since they were willing to risk serious physical injury - even death - to defend the sacrifices of others.
Unquestionably, these three soldiers, who were publicly recognized by the President of Greece and subsequently by the Greek people, should be honored by the Greek American Community during our upcoming Greek Independence Day parades.
It is this column's proposal to the Federation of Greek Societies of Greater NY - and its sister federations across the country - that these three Evzones be duly honored and asked to lead the Greek Independence Day Parade.
Furthermore, this act comes to refute in practice the suspect and suspicious theories that have been finding their way into school textbooks by academicians practicing revisionist history like Maria Repousi and more recently, Thalia Dragona. These academicians, who scoff at the idea of patriotism and demonize it in their textbooks, brainwashing students into believing that loving one's country and celebrating one's heritage are passe at best and inappropriate at worst, were met with popular outcry; note popular, not political. Fortunately, Greece's former Education Minister was voted out of Parliament by the people due to her obstinate refusal to withdraw Ms. Repousi's book from the school curriculum. Let's hope the current Education Minister will meet the same fate.
In addition to the growing number of voices protesting Ms. Dragona's appointment to a crucial educational post under very questionable circumstances (which this column addressed back in November) legendary Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis made public two very seminal letters on the issue, where he openly challenges Ms. Dragona about her distressing positions. And when an icon like Mikis Theodorakis speaks, people cannot help but listen. The text of those letters is significant enough to warrant its own column, but isolating a few phrases will hopefully provide the reader with a thought-provoking foretaste.
Theodorakis accuses Ms. Dragona of "calling the unique faith, even admiration that a people may hold for their history and selves ethnocentric." He writes to her "You consider the foreign intervention that has adulterated our nation's life as practically non-existent and a pretext to cover our own weaknesses...you attempt, with the help of powerful political and economic groups...to begin your mission starting with our tender and unsuspecting children, since it proves very difficult to cripple an entire people by demolishing their symbols and myths."
Elsewhere, Theodorakis reminds her that one of the most important moments in modern Greek history - the national resistance during the Nazi occupation in WWII, which led thousands of young Greek men and women to sacrifice themselves in the name of "Hellas, the Homeland, and Liberty," was driven by all the things that Ms. Dragona castigates in "every page of [her] book," opening the way to a general "adulteration of our national identity, starting with our tender youth, through a so-called academic manner."
Second proposal: That Mikis Theodorakis be honored by the Greek American Community for his defense of Hellenism.
The fact that there are icons like Theodorakis around to defend us, and that his words are actualized in young people like the Evzones mentioned above is a bright ray of hope in an otherwise daunting 2010.