Where Have We Gone Wrong?
2007 Hellenic News of America, Inc.
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!