Sure, the fascists who punched and kicked Yiannis Boutaris while he was down had nothing to do with the Pontic Greek movement, nothing to do with Thessaloniki or northern Greece. They were aliens from another planet who landed in the northern port city on Saturday. Who are we trying to kid and for how long will we keep on kidding ourselves, when the snake is already out of its basket and spitting venom?
We don’t yet know whether the young man seen kicking the 75-year-old mayor as he lay on the ground is a Black Sea Greek or native to Thessaloniki. He may be neither. After all, fascists have no nation, which is why Greece’s Golden Dawn party supporters give the Nazi salute, take photographs in front of swastikas and swear by the ideology that was responsible for so much bloodshed in this country.
We have to ask: Weren’t any of the hundreds of people gathered outside the White Tower surprised by the sight of a black-clad young man wearing a black woolen cap in late May, a cap that he rolled down into a full-face mask? Weren’t the other people gathered at the event to commemorate the Turkish genocide of Pontic Greeks in the early 20th century embarrassed by the vulgarities being shouted by certain quarters, likening Boutaris to a deadly disease? Why did they tolerate that unconscionable former regional governor speaking on behalf of the Pontic Greeks to tell the cameras that Boutaris, “that cholera, that political transvestite, has sold out Macedonia.”
Sure, the associations of Pontic Greeks issued some lovely statements condemning this and other similar incidents, but have they ever said anything against Panayiotis Psomiadis, who constantly speaks in their name and usurps their cause?
We have to stop pretending. None of the organizers is innocent. All of us from northern Greece should be ashamed of the sorry state of affairs in the country’s second biggest city. And for its governing class, which doesn’t seem fazed by all the terrible things said every so often, occasionally to sniggers of laughter. We, the people of Macedonia, deserve better. We want our open-minded Thessaloniki back, a city that is untainted by the stain of fascism.
On a different note, the incident with the Thessaloniki mayor is an opportunity for Citizens’ Protection Minister Nikos Toskas to justify his salary. Society has paid enough for the prevalent lawlessness this administration has permitted. Tolerance of “minor” infringements leads to even bigger ones, like those we saw in the videos of Saturday’s assault. He needs to step up and do his duty, and the rest of us need to be vigilant, because the snake of fascism feeds on indifference.
Published in ekathimerini 21.5.2018