On the 42nd anniversary of the November 17, 1973 student uprising against the colonels’ dictatorship, a cold chill embraces Athens in light of the bloody terrorist attack in Paris. This year Athenians and visitors from other cities place flowers not only in the Athens Polytechnic but at the French embassy as well. The shocking events in Paris put the celebration of the brave students’ resistance in the back seat.
As the value of freedom in Greece was stomped upon for seven years by the military junta, it seems that 42 years later a fanatic religious army from the east threatens the value of freedom in all of Europe. Ironically, the French army patrols the streets now. Just like the Greek army — under the orders of the dictators, patrolled the streets of Athens during the riots that erupted around the Athens Polytechnic. It is not a good sign to have troops holding machine guns next to the cafe where you drink your coffee.
This is not the kind of world those young men and women had in mind when they defied the tank that tore down the Polytechnic gate that eerie night and shouted to the armed soldiers, “You are our brothers.”
A few months later Greece was a free country again. Democracy was restored and future politicians used and abused the brave struggle of those people to their own ends. Even some of the Polytechnic heroes grew up and started cashing in on their moments of glory. The meaning of November 17 was twisted. A group of terrorists were named after that date and killed a number of their political opponents. Even the meaning of democracy was twisted to serve hateful purposes.
Every year during the commemorative day some self-professed anarchists hide in the crowds that rally, vandalize and burn Athens in the name of the flavor of the day. Every year fewer people join the rally. The veneer of that great event has faded as people see that many confuse freedom with anarchy.
Today, spineless politicians pretend that they would stand in front of the tank were they of age in 1973. Others claim they fought against the junta but they can’t prove it. Even worse, others literally robbed state funds while professing they live by the principles the Polytechnic students stood for. And brought Greece to the sad state it’s in today.
On November 17, 2015 it would be more fair to say a big thanks to all the unknown heroes of that day who preferred to remain anonymous and stay in the romantic shadows of their ideals.