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Ithaka on the Horizon by Stavro Nashi

Ithaka on the Horizon

by Stavro Nashi

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ITHAKA ON THE HORIZON: A Greek-American Journey

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14 January 2008

Comments

Kevin McEvily

Poor Joe! Why would you consciously decide to live in a country that was precluded from achieving both its promise and its potential?
One of my favorite quotations bearing on this issue is from a pretty solid American – Abraham Lincoln: "I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better."
That’s not quite the flip side of Honest Abe’s famous dictum that if you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will. I like to think of both quotes as very American expressions that tend to work for cultures as well as for individuals.
Stavros, I live in a wonderful place where great cultures intersect. It’s the fourth largest city in the United States, the most diverse in Texas. Our population is 37.4% Hispanic, 25% African-American, 30.8% white and 5% Asian. This diversity is something we like to celebrate here.
Joe quite naturally would enjoy our annual Italian and Greek festivals, both of which entertain large crowds drawn substantially from cross cultural groups. It seems you become quite expert at celebrating when you live in a community like this and that the better you are at celebrating, the better American you become.
I challenge Joe to come down here and attend a Cinco de Mayo festival or Las Posadas at Christmas time or the celebrations for of their Patroness over at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish (where the churchyard is still the honored resting place of Confederate hero Dick Dowling) and see if after eating and drinking and dancing with them he still claims to dislike Mexicans or Mexican Americans. I don’t think it can be done by any open minded individual.
But it’s not necessary for Joe to travel all the way to Texas. He can run the same trial during Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara. That is, he can so long as the hosts for that event still hold to our common American ideals. But I'm sure Joe knows that the California Latinos have always been pretty accepting of immigrants – even such latecomers as Anglos and whites of the Italian or non-Italian varieties.
By the way, on this day in 1929 Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia. Monday is a holiday honoring that event and the 39 short years of his life. I hope Joe has cause to celebrate on Monday ... and today. America will be the better for it if he does!
Semper fi
Kevin,

Stavros

Hi Kev,

It is always good to hear from you and partake of your wisdom, which is expressed so eloquently. I agree with you that when we get to know each other on a personal level it helps dispel some of the stereotypes we have of each other. If you read Turan's comments you will notice that young Greeks and Turks are able to get along quite well in a place like Australia where they are exposed to each other on a personal level.

It's too bad that there is so much fear out there. Fear about crime, terrorism, jobs and people who are different than us. Our country is based on the idea that immigrants who come here legally have a shot at the American dream and that eventually they can earn the right of American citizenship. Not all multi-cultural societies are equally successful and some countries who are homogeneous prefer to stay that way. That's OK. Maybe those that do not want to mingle with people who are "different" should consider moving to a location where there are no differences. I am not quite sure however, where that would be.

Best wishes to you and yours for the New Year. Semper Fi

Margaret

A really interesting post, Stavros. I enjoyed reading the background to the story of the Greeks who came to America.

I thought how the history of a people, though, however good, can never do justice to the thousands of individual experiences that each man, woman, family had when they came to America and which become hidden in a general account. At every turn, I suppose experiences varied widely. Some found kindness and a warm welcome: others found prejudice. I know you are a great believer in history: I gave it up at the first opportunity. I think it is so hard to adequately describe the infite complexities of our ancestors in a way which enables us to find many lessons for ourselves today. I wonder if there is such a thing as a collective experience of a people. I'll have to think about that.

Stavros

Margaret,

It's true I love history and I do believe it has much to teach us, even though it's possible to derive the wrong lessons. My sister once gave me a framed quotation that sits on my desk: "I do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; I seek the things they sought." It comes from Matsuo Basho, a Japanese poet of the 17th Century and I've always thought it pretty much sums up the way I see the past.

I don't want you to think that I am trying to paint the American immigrant experience as all bad or even all good. Personally I have never faced any outright discrimination or even overt hatefulness due to my ethnicity. More like ignorance, people who have no clue. Keep in mind that my family arrived in America in 1956. After Greek-Americans had become part of the landscape and many were 2nd and 3rd generation. I also grew up in New York City which is about as multi-ethnic a place as you will ever find.

As for a people's collective experience. There must be shared experiences such as the German Occupation of Greece or the American Civil War that imprint themselves on a nation's psyche. Of course people don't all have the same experiences during commonly shared upheavals however trauma like that has got to indelibly imprint itself on large groups of people and it often gets passed on from generation to generation to some degree.

Don't you think that your own countrymen's experience during World War I and the loss of a generation of young men, may still be playing itself out in some manner even today? Though I must agree that historians tend to get it wrong especially when the written record is obscure.

Scruffy

So, I'm not one for Conspiracy theories, but after seeing this I wanted to see if any Phylaxians or MGOs think?

Is the North American Union and AMERO the eventual future of America?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuBo4E77ZXo

Stavros

Sure seems like we are well on the way to achieving these goals, doesn't it? Once economies become indistinguishable, borders are a mere formality.

Istvan

A century after the Omaha riot Alexander Payne's award and "S'agapo poli!" for his mother uttered at the Oscar night must have meant a bit as redemption and pride for Omaha's greek community and the broader greek diaspora. Even the greeks of the patrida must have felt that way especially during these difficult times that we can't even imagine.
Great post as always

Hope you and your family are all well.

Stavros

Istvan,

What stands out in my mind about the history of Greek America is that they persevered and succeeded despite the obstacles that were placed in front of them. They loved both their adopted country and their mother country even when at times they were not always loved by either.

A Greek friend of mine once told me that Greece has always exported its human talent which seemed always to be much more plentiful than the limited resources one could eke out of its rocky soil.

Greece is like a mother that devours her best and brightest children, casting them out to seek their fortunes elsewhere while she sleeps with grifters and thieves who have stolen what little wealth she has.

I hear from friends and relatives often and I fear that the Germans are condemning Greeks to the kind of brutal economic punishment that was inflicted on them after World War I. They want to teach Greeks a lesson however in the process they will only destabilize the country and perhaps Europe in the long run.

Always good to hear from you. My family is well, thank you for asking and I hope your family is also well. I have been overwhelmed lately by a number of projects. Never have been able to say no, to my detriment but hope to return soon.

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Searching for Ithaka

  • Keep Ithaka always in your mind. Arriving there is what you're destined for. But don't hurry the journey at all. Better if it lasts for years, so you're old by the time you reach the island, wealthy with all you've gained on the way, not expecting Ithaka to make you rich. Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey. Without her you wouldn't have set out. She has nothing left to give you now. And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you. Wise as you will have become, so full of experience, you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean. C. P. Cavafy

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