Commentary by Susan Estrich of Creators Syndicate
It really is. Take a look at the front page of Drudge last week, or any of the news broadcasts, and it's enough to break the heart of all of us who love almost all things Greek.
I don't travel much (at least not to places that don't have electoral votes), but some years ago, I spent a family vacation on the beautiful Greek island of Skiathos, where old friends had a house. It was magical — the place, the shops and restaurants, and most of all, the people, who were warm, generous and open.
I wasn't surprised. Back in 1987 and 1988, when I traveled around this country with Michael Dukakis, the first Greek-American to run for president, I met other Greeks from every walk of life, some of them new immigrants, some of them longtime citizens and some of them visitors from Greece; and almost to a person, they impressed me with their generosity and unbelievably strong work ethic. My old friend Gov. Dukakis was frugal, sometimes to a fault, as his wife would be the first to tell you; economic responsibility seemed to be bred in the bones.
Which is why it is so hard for me to look at those awful pictures, of policemen literally in flames, buildings burning, bank employees murdered by rioters in the streets.
It is Greek to me, by which I mean it is almost incomprehensible, and horribly tragic.
The economy of Greece is not on the verge of collapse: for all intents and purposes, it has collapsed. The nations who are bailing them out, and there is no other word for it, have every right to expect that Greece will make fundamental changes to deal with the crisis they brought on themselves.
I understand the frustration of hardworking people who are upset about having their wages cut or their pensions reduced because of economic forces larger than themselves, mistakes made by others, greed, corruption and excess at almost every level.
But burning buildings, rioting in the streets, raising communist flags and killing innocent people will only make all of their problems worse. Don't they understand that?
The rest of the world will not sit by and dig into their own pockets to help people who are not willing to accept responsibility and help themselves.
The rest of the world will not finance the bailout of a nation whose people they see as violent and greedy.
I have no doubt that many of the people I met in Greece are working hard today, not rioting in the streets and burning buildings. But I won't be seeing them anytime soon. Would anyone schedule a trip to Athens, or even Skiathos, as long as buildings are burning, policemen are on fire and bank employees are under attack? My heart aches for the people of Greece, but frankly, not enough to want to visit in the midst of this.
In a world of instant communications, streaming video and nonstop news, the world has literally shrunk. No one can get away with anything. It is time for the decent and hardworking people of Greece to take responsibility for their country and for this crisis, to restore calm, renew their commitment to work their way out of debt and not try to riot and rebel. One of the most beautiful and historic countries in the world is in danger, and the ultimate answer is not a foreign bailout, but a resurgence of the spirit that brought democracy to the world.
To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web site at www.creators.com.