The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has confirmed that Greece has missed the deadline for it to make a 1.6-billion-euro debt repayment. Greece had made a last-minute request for the debt to be extended.
Last winter, I stood outside the Opera House in the centre of Athens looking at the posters in the window. I was approached by a well-dressed and immaculately groomed elderly lady. I moved to the side. I thought she wanted to pass. She didn’t. She asked me for a few euros because she was hungry. I took her to dinner and, in generous and unsolicited exchange, she told me her story.
Her name was Magda and she was in her mid-seventies. She had worked as a teacher all her life. Her husband had been a college professor and died “mercifully long before we were reduced to this state”, as she put it. They paid their tax, national insurance and pension contributions straight out of the salary, like most people. They never cheated the state. They never took risks. They saved. They lived modestly in a two bedroom flat.
In the first year of the crisis her widow’s pension top-up stopped. In the second and third her own pension was slashed in half. Downsizing was not an option – house prices had collapsed and there were no buyers. In the third year things got worse. “First, I sold my jewellery. Except this ring”, she said, stroking her wedding ring with her thumb. “Then, I sold the pictures and rugs. Then the good crockery and silver. Then most of the furniture. Now there is nothing left that anyone wants. Last month the super came and removed the radiators from my flat, because I hadn’t paid for communal fuel in so long. I feel so ashamed.”
The Greek crisis has destroyed an old dream about the future of Europe. The only possibility for moving the EU in the direction we were promised is a radical solution — either a Grexit or an expensive debt haircut.
Alexis Tsipras says he is open to 11th-hour negotiations as Greece veers towards a default on a 1.6 billion euro loan payment. He hinted he would resign if Greeks rejected his plea for a ‘no’ vote on a possible aid deal.
Are you seeing all your servants who
made themselves lord of this land?
Are you seeing how easily they take the
valuable life you have given us and
snatch from us the laws of humanity you made?
I am fed up with
all the cruelty, panic, violence, and darkness
I am fed up with seeing
tears in children’s eyes
Seeing hopelessness in a family’s eyes
I am fed up with my struggles,
protests, advocacy, and fights
when our government is deaf and blind.
I am fed up with all my
dreams for peace, stability,
happiness, unity, and humanity.
Photo by Sgt. Daniel P. Shook
There’s a small piece of parchment paper that I keep on my writing desk. I’m holding it here. Everyday I look at it as I sit down to read, gather my thoughts, and write. If I hold it up to the light just right, I can believe every word.
I found it at a rummage sale down the road from where I grew up in the country – barely a mile from home – in a box of old diaries, records and journals from the seventies. I took the whole box home with me. In it were treasures of a young girl’s thoughts – her favorite quotes, her original poems, scrapbooks painstakingly written and typed on old typewriter font, love poems, secrets, and words such as these from the courageous Anne Frank. I felt privileged, and a bit guilty,to peer into the heart and mind of another seventies girl I never knew, but who could have easily been my soul-sister, had I known she lived just down the road.
Fast-forward forty-five years.
And I am holding the same thin paper, so beautifully detailed. It is almost like new, and I begin to read… I still believe that people are really good at heart.... and I feel a giant, stubborn lump swell up in the throat of me, because I cannot continue, I cannot read on, I cannot absorb it – I cannot believe it.
But Anne, I say, there are lovely people being shot in places of worship. In Charleston, South Carolina. While they were praying. Didn’t you hear? Atrocities done by the hand of ‘people’… people called humans, like me and like you, the same species of which you speak, slaughtering and killing, hating and maiming without remorse. Where are these other people, Anne, of which you speak? Are we to be divided into those who have souls and those who don’t? Or do you mean to say, really, surely, that all people aren’t really good at heart?
What I see in my world is not good, Anne, it is evil.
And I want to stop with the Pollyanna platitudes if you don’t mind.
Neither am I.
There’s a war going on inside of me you see…. You feel it too, don’t you?
People are not just randomly killing each other, there is attention for my soul. The axe keeps falling on the root of my beliefs. With each new horrible news story, each new morality debate, I retreat a little further into cynicism, swimming in daily reality checks, and trying to fit words like bigotry, white supremacy, evil, terror, hate, murder into a jigsaw puzzle with hope, forgiveness, God, mercy, grace and love.
What has become my reality, Anne? Who has the loudest voice? What has become the standard on planet Earth? Which part of the puzzle will I become? Whose words will win? Things didn’t turn out so well for you.
“Look, Mimi”, she whispered. “I said you had to look for it.”
And in my stubborn heart a question railed: Do you believe in the power of words or not?
Do you believe in God or not? Do you believe what you say you believe…or not?
I remembered the woman who stood face-to-face with that fresh-faced killer in Charleston last week. You remember her, don’t you? I will never, ever, forget her. In a courtroom of justice, swallowed and sick with grief, she looked into the face of the most heinous of people among us and said to the evil, “I forgive you.” And once again another uttered,
“We have no room for hate. We have to forgive.”
The weight of those words broke the divide.
The lump in my throat came pouring down my cheeks, because thank God, thank God, Anne was right. There are people like that. They do walk among us.
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