Not Like the Greeks

an Op-Ed by Dr. Tim Tsiotsias

I am tired of hearing the phrase, "not like the Greeks," uttered over and over again on television talk shows, radio shows, and in newspaper editorials. There was even a billboard on I-95 expressing this same message. While I realize that they are referring to Greece's current debt crisis, it's time we said, "enough is enough." Greeks are a proud people with an amazing history. We understand that they are having financial problems. However, to now improperly label the country of Greece or the Greek people as a "debt crisis" would be a travesty to their good name.

Greek civilization has given numerous advancements to the world. The American democracy, like all of the world's democratic countries, has its roots in ancient Greece. Philosophers like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Democritus, who lived more than 3000 years ago, are still admired and studied today. Greek architecture has inspired buildings since antiquity, and continues to exert its influence through modern times. The structures that represent the United States to the rest of the world, like the Capitol Building and Lincoln Memorial, are modeled after Greek architecture. The "Father of Medicine," Hippocrates, changed how medicine is practiced to this day. The advances made by Dr. Papanicolaou, creator of the Pap smear, save countless lives through the early detection of cervical cancer in women. The great mathematician, Archimedes, is still considered to be one of the greatest mathematicians, not of ancient time, but of all time. Pythagoreans' equations are still taught in high schools throughout the world.

The Greeks discovered the earth was round two thousand years before Galileo or Columbus. The ancient Greeks even discovered the diameter of the earth and distance between the earth, sun, and moon. They had theorized the structure of atoms without the use of advanced microscopes. The Greeks have, in the past and in the present, given much to our society that now depicts them so unfavorably.

The Greek Spartan soldiers of the famed "300," who stood against a force of over 300,000 Persians are still admitted and revered today. Alexander the Great created an empire that crossed continents, bringing Greek civilization to the far corners of the globe. A small group of mountain fighters, outnumbered and under-prepared, stood against the Ottoman Empire to free Greece from nearly 400 years of Turkish slavery and oppression. Greece was an ally of the United States during two world wars. During WWII, an outnumbered and poorly equipped Greek army faced a modern and well equipped Italian-Axis army at its Northern borders, succeeding when all odds were against them. The Greeks gave the Allies their first victory in WWII against the Axis powers, leading Winston Churchill to proclaim that "Greeks don't fight like heroes but heroes fight like Greeks." The Greek soldiers distinguished themselves while fighting alongside the American army during the Korean War. The Greek people are not only strong on the battlefield but also strong in their commitments to other countries, bringing help when they need it most. After the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, Greece was one of the first to aid the earthquake victims. History has shown that the Greek people's willingness to overcome adversity and their willingness to keep fighting to save their nation from their economic troubles.

Greece's economic problems have many, complex reasons for happening. It is an accumulation of years of poor governmental policies, lack of growth, and new economic union--not the failure of the Greek people who struggle like everyone else to raise and feed their families. The Euro-zone is a relatively new system of governmental cooperation between European countries; unforeseen issues were bound to arise. Other countries in the EU also have struggling economies, such as Italy, Portugal, Spain and Ireland. Even our great country, the United States, has been fraught with banking and financial crises. Several US cities have declared bankruptcy. As a Greek-American, I am proud of our rich Greek Heritage. The Greek people have contributed to the advancement of mankind throughout history. The Greek people have overcome many difficulties in the past and will succeed again in overcoming their present crisis. The Greek people are innovators, thinkers, fighters, humanitarians and most of all, human beings, capable of mistakes, but also capable of great successes. Regardless of Greece's economic future, we should be saying, "We want to be like the Greeks."

(Posting date 3 December 2012. Permission to reprint from author. Article appeared originally in the September 2012 issue of "I Efimerida," the Greek-American Herald of Southern Florida.)

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