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09 June 2006

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Scruffy American

Stavro,

I couldn't post a reply to your post at Phylax because I don't have a Wordpress account.

But, I showed your article to a retired Colonel of the USAF who is also Greek-American and here is his reply to you:

He's a bit blunt but I thought I'd let you see it if you wanted to rebut.

START QUOTE FROM SCRUFFY'S FRIEND:

He (Stavro) was going good until he came up with that crap about Greek becoming the official language of the U.S. The US does not have any language as "the official language" or else it would be in the US Constitution. There is not even a mention of an official language debate in the minutes of the Consitutional Convention. The whole story started with a German language speaking village in Pennsylvania that requested a translation of the US Constitution when it was first written. From this incident the Germans started up the story that German was to become the official language of the US and the Greeks naturally took up the story themselves from the Germans.

You may also want to point out that historically and traditionally the Orthodox Church has used the language of the country to which it has spread its beliefs. Thus the Russians use Old Slavonic Russian, the Romanians use Romanian, the Serbs use Serbian etc. The only country that the church has not used the local language in its services is the USA. This is due to the large immigrant population that originated in Greece and spoke hardly any English. But the immigrant population has mostly died out and few are left of the original immigrants. Their offspring do not speak or write proper Greek and if they are speaking any Greek it's the Greek of 100 years ago when their forebearers first came to America. They, of course, cannot understand the Biblical scriptures nor any of the writings of the saints.

So if they cannot understand any of this why maintain a language that no one understands. If these people are really interested in maintaining the Greek language then the churches could organize Greek language classes for those that are really interested. Mixing religion with language is definetly the wrong way to go. Being a good Orthodox does not depend on how well one speaks or understands Greek.

As for the idealistic concept of "Hellenism" it's something that is only in the minds of men. Today's Hellenism is the guy in Athens riding a motorcycle with his 6 year old kid and neither one is wearing a helmet.

END QUOTE OF SCRUFFY'S FRIEND

Stavros

Scruff, I'll try to answer as best I can, although it seems he may have made up his mind on a number of issues.

Obvioulsy, the US does not have an official language enshrined in the Constitution, although there are many politicians pushing for at least some recognition of English as the official language. A move that I support wholeheartedly.

Historical allegations are not facts unless supported by hard evidence, unfortunately much of the historical record is shrouded in haze. Attempting to debunk as mere legend the rejection of Greek by the Continental Congress with other dubious or unsubstantiated facts is also questionable.
I don't think even scholars can say with certainty what happened in the Continental Congress anymore that we can tell for sure what goes on in our present Congress. Believe it or not there are a few things going on that C-Span does not tape. If our friend thinks this is an urban legend I'll remove it from my post, so he can sleep at night. (Done) There can be litte doubt however, of the fervent and profound admiration the country's founders displayed for the Greek cultural and political system: the aftermath of which influenced, and even identifies today, the architectural appearance of the Capital. The question, thus, surfaces: Is the debunking attempt itself a legend? I contend that the Founding Fathers were indeed Philhellenes. This was further proven during the Greek War of Independence when Philhellenism rose to a fever pitch in America.

I agree that the Orthodox faith speaks the language of its people. The use of English is a natural progression in America. Read my
posts on Orthodoxy. Please keep in mind however, that Greek is the language of the Bible and of the Church Fathers. If a Protestant Baptist takes the time to learn Greek in order to read the Bible in the original, don't you think that a Greek American should have at least the yearning to do the same? If an Orthodox Christian doesn't understand the central role played by the Greek language and by Hellenism in Orthodox Christianity, then I doubt that he knows much about either. There is a lot more to our faith and its traditions than going to church on Sunday and dropping a buck in the tray. The problem with the continuation of the Greek language is that we as a community have failed to perpetuate it.

As for Hellenism, please read more, there is much to learn. Characterizing it in the manner that you do is like characterizing all Americans as Eminem clones or every Greek American as a guy stuffing his face with a gyro and wearing a T-shirt that says: Kiss Me, I'm Greek.

Part of the reason I put this blog together and devote a good deal of time to it is my love of that part of me that is Greek. I'm as patriotic as any American, that doesn't mean I have to discard everything that that generations of my ancestors thought was important in order to prove something to people who have forgotten their own past.

Semper Fi


Hermes

The last paragraph by the retired Colonel signifies just what is wrong today.

Hellenism and Christian Hellenism are ideals and ways of life. If very few people put the ideals into practice, it does not mean we should stop trying. And ideals and principles are what gives a man sustenance from the mediocrity of everyday life. If most modern day Greeks have become whores to plasticity that does not mean we should just give up.

Likewise, the United States is the land of the free and opportunity. For many people this has become a outright fantasy. However, if these ideals are extinguished from every day reality and in our minds who is going to be left to show everyone the way back.

By the way Stavros, you might enjoy this new blog, Nea Romaiosyni.

http://nea-romaiosyni.blogspot.com/

Scruffy American

Stavro, Hermes, I'll pass your comments along to him.

On a side note, I did check snopes.com (which debunks urban legends) and apparently he was right about the German language thought to become our official language (as an urban legend).

From what else I could find on Google, apparently other countries as well claim that their language lost by a vote or two as well. While no one knows for sure as you said, I believe these folks at Snope do a decent investigation before they put out their ruling.

Anyways here's the site:

http://www.snopes.com/history/govern/onevote.htm

Retired Colonel (USAF)

from SCRUFFY First:

Stavro, I'll post my friend's comments as I did above. Although I agree with many of your comments and the good Colonel's, I'll stay out of this one and just watch your response. I believe you (STAVRO) are one of the most patriotic Americans of Greek descent I have met on the blogs. My retired Greek-American Colonel friend is also but he is definitely more American than Greek I think.

Anyways here's his last retort to your comments: Maybe you can meet him as well when you come to Athens if you like.

RETIRED COLONEL SAYS:

You may also ask Stavro whether it doesn't sound stupid to legislate an "official language" which no one understands?

The politicians are pushing for English as an official language on a State by State basis NOT by US Constitutional Amendment. There is no historical haze regarding an official language. The minutes from the US Constitutional Convention and the Continental Congress (two separate and different bodies) are available to anyone that cares to research them. Both are well documented unlike the kafeneia legends of ancient Greece.

Perhaps it would be more worthwhile for Greek Americans to research their own American history more and less on the fantasies of what was supposed to be "Hellenism." A little objectivity would not hurt.

As to the Founding Fathers having an admiration for ancient Greek culture, they had no more admiration for Greek culture as they did for Rousseau, Voltaire, British Common Law, Roman jurisprudence etc. That is the beauty of America. It took from many different cultures and created a system of government that is the envy of the world. We have had our ups and downs but one thing we have never had is a national military government like these insulated Balkan folk have had. The 53 men who put together the US Constitution are worth more to me than all the ancient Greeks put together.

One would be at great difficulty if not impossible to replicate those minds since then. Proof is that the US has the oldest and effective written constitution in the world.

Another beauty of America is that we are like a fine stew, NOT a melting pot. In a stew the various ingredients are still identifiable. We can still see the Spanish, the French, the English, the Irish, the German elements in our society. Although many would like each of us to become carbon copies of each other it has not happened nor will it happen. You will still see the "Greek Church Festivals" (where they will fleece the "Amerikano" for a piece of chicken sprinkled with oregano and oven cooked potatoes), the Mexican, Chinese, Indian and Pakistani restaurants. America has taken what in other countries (like Greece) would be a negative and turned it into a positive. Proof is that the descendants and present day occupants of the land called Greece (which did not officially become a country until 1828 - long after the US had become an independent and viable state) are still attempting to pass off their superiority based on what some dead people did or did not do in a civilization that had disappeared before Christ was born. Today's Greek has as much relationship to the ancient Greek as does George Bush to Pocahontas. They just live on the same land.

The Philhellenes who went to Greece to fight for independence learned this early on. Lord Byron, on his death bed, even stated it when the Greeks then had swindled him out of his fortune before he met his death in the siege of Messolonghi when he realized that the then Greek tribesmen and feudal elements had no relationship to the idealistic Greeks of ancient times.

As to the language of the Bible being Greek, I have no argument with that. But it was the biblical Greek that no one (except the theologians who study it) communicates with today. There are just so many hours in a day. I would prefer that these hours are spent by people in learning their chosen profession than learning a dead language. Would we rather have a doctor attending us that knew perfect ancient Greek but did not know a thing about repairing our broken leg? How about an auto mechanic who can recite by heart the plays of Sophocles but does not know that the air filter in your car needs changing, or the tires need balancing for better gas mileage?

For Stavro's information, a recent EU study reveals that Greek students spend an average of 45 hrs. per week in classroom study. The EU average is 27 hours. The extra hours are spent in learning such things as theology, ancient Greek, hatred of their neighbors with jingoistic history and the rest of the stuff that will not help them in making a living in the world. They are not even learning these subjects correctly. I have had a Greek college graduate ask me whether the majority of Americans are Moslem. They are not taught that Greece had a civil war immediately after World War II. They are not taught about the "paidomazoma" by the Greek communists who took Greek children from their parents and transported them to communist bloc countries to be raised as communists. How come there is such a jump in Greek history from the ancients to modern times? Who were the rulers of Athens in the 13th century? What role did Greek ships' crews play in the 18th century slave trade to America? Why was the first Greek community church established in 1864 in New Orleans? Was the first King of Greece an Orthodox Christian?

It is a sad state of affairs when a country's inhabitants and their overseas relatives rely on the events and personalities of over 2,000 years ago to promote themselves. The rest of the world can merely stand back and laugh.

Today's Greek believes the rest of the world is buying off on their "koutoponiria" with the ancients, the language, the history and the rest of the jingoism. Joke is on them. The Philhellenes of 180 years ago may have believed in it back then because they didn't know any better. Times have changed and folks are more aware of the Greek national character.

END RETIRED COLONEL COMMENTS


demonax

Such a laughable post from the so-called colonel. Ill-informed, prejudiced, inaccurate, embarrassing, full of the usual American drivel which makes even people like me, generally sympathetic to America, turn into the most virulent anti-American. You've really got to stop being so boorish. I can't be bothered to engage in a detailed rebuttal – it would be demeaning to me, and I have better things to do, like go watch Mexico-Iran in the World Cup. Mexico-Iran, now there are two interesting countries, with real and complex histories, which is perhaps why America – the nihilistic juggernaut – hates them so much.

Aristomachos Ops

Just because someone is a retired colonel does not give them superior intellect. In fact, some of the dumbest people that I have met are retired US Generals. They know how to tote the neo-conservative line, repeat it, and not think freely. These are men that are trained in following orders. If it was any other way, the Abu Gharib, Dresden, Tokyo, and all other American war crimes might have been prevented. It is also why the American military has never had much success when it comes to STRATEGY...being able to win wars on the basis of mass manufacturing capabilities means nothing. There has never been a battle won between American forces and an enemy that is on equal footing in that battle. World War II and American defeats at teh hands of the Germans are a case in point. And get over D-day...the Great Patriotic War fought by the Russians was much more important in cracking the Nazi nut than the D-day invasion that ya'll like to thump and hump about to this day.

His point on paidomazoma is well taken. It is true that Hellas has problems dealing with the communists in power...but this is largely because those that might side with the non-communists are branded supporteres of the Junta...which America helped propel into power. After their defeat, the Junta of the Left came about...and Hellas has never been the same again.

And if your friend would like to dispute this, tell him to go and read the declassified State Department record which give unequivocal proof that the US was aware of the who was organizing the coup, where they were meeting, and what they were discussing.

Why the US never forwarded this information to the relvant authorities is still classified, but through inference, it is quite obvious that the US wanted it to happen.

As for relying on personalities of 12,000 +: That's the beauty of Hellenic history...it is long and distinguished....but NOT limited to ancient times. Tell you military friend (and yourself too) to try and examine the contibutions of modern Hellenes to the world. If he considers Konstantine Karatheodoris contirbutions to mathematics, Hellenic resistance to the Italian and German invasions of Hellas in WWII, and George Seferis to literature... he will only have uncovered the tip top of Modern Hellenes' contribution to the intellectual adventures of modern man.

It seems to me that being American entails a-historicism and being wildly arrogant.

Oh, and a final point...Voltaire, Locke, the Founding Fathers of America, British Common Law, etc ALL are paraphrases of Ancient Hellenic works...and all admired the Hellenes. Do not try arguing this with me...I have done deep academic studies on this which you could not wrap your head around... and will not waste my time arguing in circles with an arrogant American on this issue.

ΜΟΛΟΝ ΛΑΒΕ

Stavros

I don't even know where to begin. There is obviously an element of self-hate here. This is reflective of a trend that has always existed in Greek history. Greeks trying to tear each other apart. This lack of unity in the Greek-American community is also to blame for its apparent inability to pass on the truly important aspects of our culture to the next generation.

As others who know my opinions can attest, I have never shied away from criticizing or disagreeing with other Greeks, no matter where they live. Unlike the Colonel. I have never been ashamed of my Greekness nor failed to appreciate what is unique about Greek acomplishments. I am indeed saddened by his failure to recognize the importance of Greek contributions to both American democracy and Western civilization. As Shelley once said: "We are all Greeks."

The Founding Fathers were classically educated in the tradition of educated Englishman of the day. They could speak, read and write Greek and Latin. They read and studied the Classics. There is no doubt at all for example, that Thomas Jefferson had a deep and abiding love for the Greek language. No one will argue that the Founding Fathers were not influenced by many things. To discount the influence of the Greek philosophers and Athenian democracy is to misread American history totally. Please go to the following link to learn more:http://www.grecoreport.com/america's_debt_to_greece_and_Christianity.htm

Perhaps this is the stuff of Kafenia legends, however, one look around Washington, D.C. will prove it is not. I guess the Colonel is an expert on the Constitutional Convention and the Continental Congress and he has the last word on this. I yield to his superior knowledge in the matter. I hope that by engaging in this uniquely Greek method of learning through dialogue that he is willing to listen as well as instruct.

Our Founding Fathers did not create our democracy in a vaccum. Without Western civilization and in particular, the Greeks, they would have lacked the very ideas and skills necessary to construct the Constitution and a living democracy. Although I admire them for what they did, I don't discount the ethical traditions and philosophical ideas that made it possible. Please understand that history did not begin in 1776. These guys just didn't wake up one morning and say "Why don't we create a new system of government today and lets start from scratch."

As for Greek being a dead language, it actually is alive and well despite people like the colonel. As a matter of fact it has remained remarkably unchanged in form and meaning for thousands of years. I am not advocating that Americans, whether they are of Greek descent or not, spend all their time learning Greek, just learning more about the Hellenic ideals that America has always espoused. What we need now more than ever is civilized members of the polis who can think, reason and dialogue, otherwise our democracy will not be worth a hill of beans in the future. These are "Greek" ideals that even Greeks with their turbulent history often fail to attain. These are ideals we should ALL aspire to. BTW, Sophocles was also a politician, in many respects a philosopher, and a skilled artisan, but that didn't prevent him from be able to think and reason about more weighty matters. We are human beings not occupational specialties.

Your view of Greek history focuses on the negatives. You sound like many of our fellow Americans who do the same thing with US history. History is a totality of events, some good, some bad. We could talk about this particular subject for days. Maybe we will in future posts. As for education, most American high school students probably couldn't find Greece on the map and more than a few are functionally illiterate so let's not criticize to sharply.

As someone who spent a good part of his life in the US military you do not have to prove you are a patriotic American by denying and attacking your Greek heritage. This effort on your part to expunge all that is Greek about you by seeking to cast aspersions on all things Greek is demeaning. If you have completely abandoned and obliterated your past,please realize that by doing so you are only hurting yourself and the memory of your Greek
fore bearers.

One last thing, my community has a Greek festival and I've been to many others. The people that put these festivals on do not cheat anyone. In fact they give their labor freely. In our town everyone flocks to the Greek festival. They are always impressed and often envious of the sense of family and community displayed by every age group. Its obvious from your rant that you never grew up around a community like mine. I hope that some day you can redisover what is good about your Greek past and incorporate it in your own life and that of your children.

Scruff, Tell the Colonel to read some of my other posts, try reading some of the recommended books inluding Edith Hamilton's, The Greek Way and going to the links.

Semper Fi

Scruffy American

Hi Guys,

Wow! I'm sure he will have a few words for you guys. I've tried to get him to post on this blog but so far all I've been able to do is have him post replies to my emails of your comments.

But, hey that's why dialogue is so fun. I love watching people debate even if it gets hot.

And, there is much to learn from both camps.

By the way, if it's any consolation, as well as US military officer, my friend has a degree in international affairs from Georgetown University where he concentrated in history, government, and economics. So, he does come with some credentials as well.

Stavros

He is welcome to vent all he wants on this blog. As long as he willing to maintain a give and take dialogue. We all have something to contribute, but no one is the font of all knowledge and truth. If blogging has taught me anything, it is that it can be a unique learning experience for everyone involved.

Hermes

That is no retired Greek American Colonel. That is someone else masquerading as a retired Colonel.

Scruffy, whoever is responsible those sort of tactics are not what I'd expect from a true American.

Hermes

Scruffy, I am not really sure where you get you information from but it is not very accurate.

1)Yes, Greek students are learning theology and ancient Greek and that should be applauded.

2) They are taught about the Civil War.

3) Byzantine history is given nearly as much coverage as Ancient in the Greek curriculum

4) There were no rulers in 13th century Athens because the ruler was in Constantinople.

5)All children know the first King of Greece was from Bavaria and logically could not have been Orthodox Christian.

I am not sure why I am replying, but maybe some of these refutations will expose your postings for the fraud that they are.

Scruffy American

Retired colonel will be responding soon. Stavro, you can check my IP address vs his and see it's two different people...

Retired USAF Lt. Colonel

Just to clear matters up, the comments above are actually from a real live person NOT Scruffy.

I have been visiting Greece since 1952 as a child, and have been living here continuously for over 30 years.

I was raised in the US South where the rednecks (predominant species in the Southern food chain) had us confused with those of the Jewish faith. Greeks were not allowed to join country clubs and in many instances were not allowed to enter certain other facilities. I participated in all church events including chanter (psalti) from the age of nine. My parents promoted real "Hellenism" in their home and none of this phoney idealistic/unrealistic stuff that I read about in this blog.

Ancient Greeks believed that the word "xenos" was someone who did not know your language, laws, culture, traditions and was to be protected. In this tradition my parents always had visiting Greek military from a nearby US military base and Greek ship crews who happened to visiting the local port sitting at our dinner table. Whenever the Greek seaman who jumped ship got caught he could always count on my father to go to bat for him with the INS. Here, in Greece, whenever I see an English speaking tourist looking at a street map and is apparently lost I offer my assistance.

I am not telling you all this to blow my horn. I am only asking you to ask yourselves have you ever done any of the above? If not, will you consider doing it? These are the things that real people in a real world want and need. They could care less if Sophocles was a playwright or a dog catcher.

I have dual citizenship and invite all those lovers of Greek culture, history, etc. to come to Greece and pay their dues on a daily basis as I do. Misinformed opinions from far away due not count as paying your dues. As an old Greek saying goes, "Polla tragoudia xerei exo apo ton choro." (He knows many songs when he's not dancing.)

My musings are based on reality and lots of time being informed. Most people who disagree with my views are too fanatical to accept them and will not use their nature given tools of reason to disagree. I have no problem with that since they provide me with intellectual entertainment. Thanks for the laughs, especially those who believed my humble writings were those of Scruffy's.

Retred USAF Lt. Colonel

Hermes

Your little story almost brought a tear to my eye. How can people do what you did if they are not in the US military?

But you did not resond any of the above refutations. I wonder why?

You wrongly assume that the people here also do not have dual citizenship and they have not also lived in Hellas. Also, very often it is easier to analyse from afar.

I also suggest you expand your horizons of friends and acquaintances within Greece.

It appears you are trying to intentionally be provocative. Be a man.

Retired  Lt. Colonel

Hermes et al:

Forgive me for bringing a tear to your eye. I assure you that I was not attempting to touch your feminine side. As for the stuff that I have done it was not because of the US military. I found the military hierarchy too narrow minded - just like many others in civilian life.

As to your citizenship, I have not assumed anything since I really do not care from what country you claim citizenship. All I care about is if you are part of the human race. Only you can answer that.

Circle of friends and acquaintances in Greece: it is you that is assuming its numbers. As your fanaticism indicates your circle must be quite limited. It has been my experience that people who talk big are usually the first ones to manifest their innate cowardice in tight spots.

I do wish to thank all of you for allowing me to put in my two cents for just this once in your blog. Perhaps I have given you some food for thought, perhaps not. I understand that you folks are too set in your ways for you to accept anything without making personal attacks based on false assumptions. My main objective was to let you know that I am not one and the same as "Scruffy." I shall be leaving you to your mutual reenforcements of misinformation. If you want refutations I would advise you to do your own research since I am not here to do your work for you nor do I wish to debate semi-knowledgeable minds.
Best of luck to all of you.
Retired LtCol

Scruffy American

One of the funny things I notice about Greece is how whenever they air an interview with foreigners asking how they like Greece or what their opinion is about their experiences here, it's always positive and never negative. Well, we all know that there is ALWAYS negative and positive comments. Whether or not the Greek media chooses to air them is the question.

By contrast, I cannot count the number of times I've seen my local news in Los Angeles interview foreigners and YES, many say how great the states was, but just as many complained and I always remember the Canadian visitor who said "I think you Americans are great but you are definitely OVER THE TOP with all your security measures lately".

So, Hermes, just cuz you don't agree with the good Colonel doesn't mean you have to insult him. Or do you want him to act like Greek media and tell you how GREAT you are.

Hermes

Colonel, you make erroneous claims and then you do not respond to their refutations.

Who is the coward? (intellectually at least)

Scruffy, everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, he made some claims and they are factually wrong. It is quite clear.

I am sure you will not respond either because your aim is quite clear as well.

Scruffy American

In a show of good faith, I will respond in respect of Mr. Stavro. And end this thread on a positive note.

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