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November 18, 2013

Standing up to the tyrant

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Written by: DW

By Elias Kulukundis

November 17 should be a national holiday. The courage of the unarmed students at the Athens Polytechnic led to the overthrow of the junta, and the day on which it, November 17, should not be a partisan political symbol that divides Left and Right, but a way for all Greeks to come together in their love liberty. The day should be remembered the way October 28 is remembered, commemorating Greece’s refusal to bow before another dictator—Mussolini.

It is possible that the Samaras government would not wish to celebrate events of that day and thus to emphasize the courage that was necessary for the students to defy the junta. To take such action, citizens must not be afraid put their physical presence, and their safety, in jeopardy—to bear witness to their beliefs. In English, the word bear suggests a pun. Protesters bear witness to their beliefs by baring their chests to the approaching tanks. The gesture is not futile, and often it serves to alter the course in history, as it did on November 17, 1973.

In an earlier era, I faced the need to take such action. In leading a party to rescue a prisoner held on the island of Amorgos in 1969, I too stood unarmed against the force of the government’s arms. Even though the arms were not visible, hidden behind the façade of a touristic landscape, the threat of force was always present. The necessary step was to face that threat directly and not to shrink from it.

That act of defiance is what sometimes makes the tyrant back down, thus altering the course of events. If I had been caught at Amorgos, the plan to free the prisoner would have failed, but another battle against the junta would have begun. It would have been the battle of a citizen with right on his side against the tyrannical actions of his government.

Some years later, I met Alexandros Panagoulis, the would-be assassin of the dictator Papadopoulos. Panagoulis gave me some advice on how to withstand torture. He said it was important to be aggressive, not to be passive.

The battle for freedom is an eternal one, though the tyrant’s tactics may change in different eras. And on November 17, all Greeks, of the Right or the Left, can remember with gratitude those who died in the struggle against tyranny, whatever uniform the tyrant happened to be wearing at the time.

Elias Kulukundis is a businessman, man of letters, and  Greek writer of the diaspora, and author of The Amorgos Conspiracy. This post was originally published on November 17, 2013, as “Greece is Missing A Chance,” in The Press Project at http://www.thepressproject.net/article/51227/Greece-is-Missing-A-Chance.






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