The Greek justice system rose to the occasion and delivered a historic verdict that also confirms Greece’s image as a free democracy governed by the rule of law. Behind the voters’ rejection of Golden Dawn and the party’s condemnation by the institutions lies a good deal of human suffering – the agony of a mother whose child was murdered, but also of so many others who suffered violence and humiliation at the hands of the criminal organization.
There is much to learn, foremost of which is that the battle against racism and intolerance must be constant and unyielding. The “day after” cannot have any more violence. Much needs to change for this to happen though, including the rhetoric and stance of many politicians, across the ideological spectrum.
The easiest thing is for one side to always believe itself right and its rivals wrong, one side to be the “liars” and the other the “frauds.” But this is also a recipe for division and lasting impasses. Yesterday’s ruling – the vindication of a mother’s struggle and a victory of collective democratic conscience – should serve as a reference point for tolerance and harmonious coexistence with others.
The conditions are ripe for parties of the so-called democratic arch to surpass themselves, to listen to the other side, respectfully. They don’t need to agree, but they should desist from painting everyone with the same brush and certainly from fomenting hate. And avoid accusations and insults in conversations, public gatherings, even in Parliament.
Politicians should understand that those with a different opinion are just rivals, not enemies. And no one has the moral advantage, because every party has people who are moral and just, as well as people who are not.
The personal rivalry between the conservatives’ Antonis Samaras and leftist Alexis Tsipras may have oozed antipathy – to put it mildly – but some accusations against New Democracy were unfounded. After all it was the Samaras government that put Golden Dawn in jail.
I remember sitting next to the then prime minister in a restaurant in Washington on October 3, 2013 when he received a message from his public order minister, Nikos Dendias, informing him that GD leader Nikos Michaloliakos had been remanded in pretrial custody. “Finally,” he said, with obvious relief. So let’s not give in to arbitrary divisions that hurt democracy, society and the country.
Yesterday’s decision in what is being described as the “biggest trial of Nazis since Nuremberg” marks a turning point in Greek history that is greater than many may think.
President Katerina Sakellaropoulou hailed the verdict as an “important day for democracy.”
“Phenomena of extremist political violence have always been alien to the country’s long democratic tradition. Today’s decision is a confirmation that democracy and its institutions are always capable of fending off any attempt to undermine them,” she said.
Politicians, opinion makers and every Greek should cherish this historic verdict and try to make it work as a springboard for some serious reflection, less division and more understanding.