The last time I visited Greece was the summer of 2011. At the time, I was very politically naive (ignorant, really). I probably could have been classified as a liberal, a hippie-hearted humanist who always cared about social justice on some level but had no understanding of politics or the history of struggle. But the 3 months I spent in Greece that summer changed all that.
To make a long story short, I saw the encampment at Syntagma Square with my own two eyes, I lived through two transportation strikes, I fell in love with all the amazing street art and political graffiti in Athens, I visited the Polytechnic University and learned the story of the 1973 uprising against the junta, I talked to my grandmother about how the Nazis burned their village to the ground and killed my great-grandfather and many others from their village in WWII, I talked to my other grandparents about how they fought as Partisans in the civil war and were exiled to Russia, and I walked around every day in a country steeped in politics and a palpable sense of history–a history that birthed my own existence.
I returned to the U.S. in September, but decided to make a 5-day detour in Madrid, Spain first. There, I encountered massive open-air assemblies of everyday people discussing politics and economics–I would later learn that this was the “Indignados” movement. I think this is when I really began to connect the dots. I remember specifically thinking, “This is so cool! It’s too bad nothing like this would ever happen in the U.S.” Little did I know that as I was having that very thought, Occupy Wall Street had just begun in NYC. And less than a month later, I flew to NYC myself and joined the occupation in Zuccotti Park. I returned to Chicago after 3 weeks at OWS and threw myself into activism.
Now, four years later, it has all come full circle, and I’m organizing demonstrations in Chicago in solidarity with Greece, at one of the most critical moments in the country’s recent history. It feels like everything I’ve done in my life up until this point was merely a precursor to this moment. The personal and the political woven into a single fate.
I don’t know which way the vote will go on Sunday but the fact that the referendum is happening at all is already historic. Either way the vote goes, there will be major political shifts in response to it.
I hope that the OXI vote wins. I hope that the people of Greece stand strong against the fear-mongering propaganda. I hope that they remember their history, our history, of all that Greece has been through and all the times it has remained strong in face of attacks. Because a vote for YES is a surrender in this economic and psychological war that the European elites have waged against Greece. A vote for NO is a vote for dignity, democracy, and justice, not just for Greeks but for people all over the world. I hope the people of Greece know what the European elites certainly do: If Greece successfully pushes back against their neoliberal austerity policies and their undemocratic authoritarian structures, then others will be emboldened and follow suit. That is their worst nightmare–and our greatest hope.
Tomorrow, the people of Greece have the levers of history, and my heart, in their hands.