Where Have We Gone Wrong?

By Marcus A. Templar

Greek-Americans cannot explain what happened to the effective lobby we used to have. Some believe we have lost political influence and others that we have lost effectiveness. One could consider both assumptions as being not viable; nevertheless, it is a fact. The well-known powerful lobby of the old times is not powerful after all.

I however, believe we have lost effectiveness, not political influence. We have political influence in the polls, but we are not effective as a group, as power brokers, simply because we are not organized. Simultaneously, Albanians, Slavs of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (The FYROM), Turks, and others have gained effectiveness and they keep demonstrating that they can play better hardball than we can. These ethnic groups have learned on how to play the game. They have received support from the U.S. government under a dual formula; they have persuaded the American public and through it U.S. politicians that their old country is strategically important to the United States and its interests; if this does not work, they play the victim card. Some of them can do both and thusly they have made it for the duration.

The change of the Greek Orthodox Church a few years ago upgrading the local Metropolitans to Archbishops is a de facto downgrade of our effectiveness, since we have lost our real power, the only unifying factor, the Church. Perhaps, the power that Archbishop Iakovos had accumulated was bad for the Patriarchate of Constantinople, objecting that one single person had become too powerful. It proved however, that the decision was misguided because under the current world political climate a unified Hellenism could be a deterrent to Turkey's unchecked appetite and constant bullish attitude and to the Slavic, or even Albanian farsighted strategic designs against Greece.

The above ethnic groups have their old homeland's governments' full albeit silent support regardless of who governs. On the contrary, Greek politicians taking advantage of the vacuum in our unified leadership have preyed on the phylarchy of unconsciously incompetent self-proclaimed "leaders" of our Diaspora in order to advance their party politics at the expense of Greece's strategic security and political stability. They simply divide the Hellenic Diaspora instead of amalgamating it. A good example is the creation of SAE. Other countries had established such organizations in the '80s and their activities differ from political to cultural. The formation of SAE started very well until partisan politics deemed more important than Hellenic national issues. It has become a tool of successive Greek governments, and because of it, it is ineffective.

The aforementioned self-proclaimed phylarchs are concurrently irresponsible. They are the ones who signed a document relieving former President Clinton from his pledge not to recognize the FYROM, but they think they are not at fault, since they abode with the Greek government's request. It is "the devil made me do it" defense. If they are not responsible for their actions, what kind of leadership do they provide? Leadership is a constant decision making process that aims to direct correct or wrong decisions. A real leader may not take credit for correct decisions, but dodge blunders. President Truman was very correct when he said "the buck stops here." Whether one likes him or dislikes him as President, and I do not, one has to admit that he demonstrated what leadership is all about.

I blame the loss of effectiveness to the lack of a solid national policy of Greece. Politicians of Greece do not even agree as to what constitutes a national Hellenic issue. As the Mayor of Athens, Dora Bakoyanni admitted to the delegation of the Pan-Macedonian Association that she could not see the matter of Macedonia as a national issue. But if the potential loss of the country's most important province and the loss of historical, cultural, and linguistic heritage do not constitute a national issue, then what does?

The Hellenic Diaspora in the USA being the oldest of all, with fourth and fifth generation Americans being caught in a time warp maintains, in my opinion, the idiosyncrasy of a 19th century Greek. Most of them being purely Americans, lacking minimal Hellenic conscience and education owe 100% allegiance to the United States and its interests; whether these interests are real or not.

The effective influence of the above-mentioned ethnic groups direct the US government as to what it is, or it is not beneficial to her in the S.E. Balkans. Thus far, we have not done anything, because we lack direction and purpose. The problem is that we have to persuade the US Department of State and the White House, while fighting the Greek government at the same time.

On the other hand, Greek politicians and even voters have not discovered the seriousness of their position. Immediately after the elections of 16 September 2007, Mr. Papoutsis, a representative of PASOK, blamed on radio the voters for his party's defeat, although everything indicated the fact that his party was unable to make its case to the voters. Then the elections for the new leader of the same party took place with results that did not make sense to me. About a month before the elections, polls showed that PASOK voters did not consider Papandreou capable to win elections against Karamanlis. Instead, they thought that Venizelos was the person that could bring PASOK to the government. Yet the internal PASOK elections brought Papandreou to leadership. Why did these people vote for a person that cannot, by their own admission, win the first political place in the Hellenic Parliament? Weird, isn't it!

Athens news Agency reported that Prime Minister Karamanlis said that

… any perception that the responsible parliamentary procedure, the procedure set out in the country's Constitution, was a process of "reduced democracy" was "erroneous and dangerous," stressing that Parliament was fully able to ratify a prospective agreement with FYROM on the name issue if such an agreement was achieved.

The Constitution, he explained, "does not rule out the choice of other procedures, such as a referendum', adding that "it does not, however, gradate democratic sensitivity and responsibility."

"If and when a final agreement arises, parliament can responsibly fulfill its own duty," the prime minister stressed.

Is the Prime Minister of Greece saying that a referendum downgrades "democratic sensitivity and responsibility?" If that is the case, why then is it included in the Constitution of Greece? Is he saying that in a referendum the voters would make an irresponsible decision, because they are incompetent to choose wisely what is good for the national issues of Greece? If the Prime Minister feels this way, perhaps he could explain to all of us in what way the same voters have been competent to place him into the office of the Prime Minister. Alternatively, is it perhaps, when these same voters go to the parliamentary election wearing their competent brain, but when they proceed to vote in a referendum in a way that the political leadership of the country dislikes, they lose their brains? Perhaps one of you smarter than I am, could explain it to me.

One of the most interesting facts is that the Greek Diaspora and the Greek governments lack communication. Greek politicians rely heavily on the Hellenic Diaspora for its lobbying in Washington. At the time that the FYROM, the Albanians, and Turks spend millions of dollars they do not have, the Greek government has placed the idea of professional lobbying in the back burner and only when difficult times appear, they want things to be happening NOW.

They do not understand that firstly lobbying is not a switch one turns on or off, at will. Secondly, it requires a lot of money, insistence, and persistence, utilizing people who have studied public relations and communications and furthermore they do it as a profession. Love for our old country and knowledge of history are not enough. Understanding how the U.S. government works, knowing how to get access, and employing people who have unlimited access, as former U.S. Congressmen, to various U.S. government offices, are the fundamental pillars of lobbying.

Our Greek –American friends have to understand that the need for real leadership is of utmost importance. We need superior persons, not ostentatious braggarts who consider a visit to the office of an U.S. official more of a photo opportunity than a duty to their Hellenic roots. We need people who surround themselves with experts in regional security, regional politics, and have an insight in the psyche of Greece's neighbors.

Greek-Americans have lost their lobbying power they once had. They are equally responsible for this loss as the successive governments and politicians of the Hellenic Parliament are. They resemble chickens with their heads cut off maundering to their death. I hope someone in the Parliament of Greece realizes that mingling in the affairs of the Hellenic Diaspora is detrimental, not beneficial to Greece. Instructions coming from Greece to our Community on how to do things do not work in the United States. We understand the American people. I cannot say the same regarding the degree of the Greeks understanding their neighbors. Greek-Americans have to take back their rightful place in the U.S. politics, and they have to do it, NOW!

(Posting date 30 November 2007)

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