In recent years, in the wake of some nasty bit of bullying by Russia or China, some American politicians sought to show empathy for the victims with phrases like: “We’re all Georgians today” or “We’re all Weegers today.”
Such statements were doubtless well-meant, but they never resonated with most Americans. There are few historical, cultural, political or economic links between Americans and Georgians in the south Caucuses, or Uighurs (pronounced Weegers), an ethnic minority in China.
Things are very different when it comes to the current agony of Greece. There are millions of Greek-Americans who play an important part in our national life, and often still have close ties with Greece. Many millions more Americans have visited Greece and come to love the country. This is one reason why it might be said, watching the news about its present agonies, that we are all Greeks today.
The economic aspect of the ongoing Greek tragedy is also felt here by many. Our country, like many others in the world, is feeling the effects of a creeping austerity. Thankfully, its extent and dimensions on these shores pales compared to the massive wage, benefit and employment cuts in Greece. Yet the lesson of spending that is totally out of sync with benefit growth or tax collections is clear. Another reason why we might identify with Greece and its people today.
For me, however, the most personally felt tragedy of this Greek agony, what makes it so viscerally upsetting, is the way it is playing out politically. Put simply: Greek democracy is dying.
The iconic democracy of the world, the country that not only gave us this system of government but lent us its name, is in very important ways a democracy no more. Moneyed foreign interests and their representatives, a consortium of markets, banks and Germans, run the place, call the shots, determine Greek policies, determine its future, merely using domestically elected officials to put a formal face on their rule.
Is this the future of democracy generally? In this flagrant, blatant and unashamed form, is this what is creeping into place everywhere, including in these United States? Money that doesn’t even bother hiding its rule but shoves it in your ace and dares you to do something about it?
If so, we truly are all Greeks today. Something that should make us all very, very afraid.
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