Anomalies in Athens
As a student in the Humanities program, I attended the study abroad trip to Athens, Greece in December 2018. The week-long journey came by surprise and turned out to not only be one of the most memorable and eye-opening experiences I’ve ever had, but also fulfilled one of my childhood dreams.
Amidst my constant child-like wonder with simply the notion of being in Greece, I also found myself struck by the blend of ancient and modern that lies within the city of Athens. From the always busy and lively Monastiraki Square in the heart of city, the Parthenon atop the Acropolis stands illuminated against the night sky. Experiencing the city of Athens led me to realize that these “developed” nations across the world suffer from the same historical paradigm: hidden dilemmas of institutional oppression and the need for superiority.
Walking the streets of Athens, I couldn’t shake the feeling of familiarity brought on by the translations of local news stories.
-Despite five thousand miles separating me from my family and surrounded by a language and culture I didn’t understand, everything still made sense.
Why did Athens feel so much like America?
It went deeper than finding a Starbucks while walking in Monastiraki. It was in the way the public avoided migrants and refugees trying to sell a rose or a bracelet in the public square. It was in the ease that our guide, Dr. Konstantinos Karatzas, stated the shocking frequency and severity of protests against the government in Athens. Or maybe it was the way he seriously asked an Athenian police officer to refrain from attacking us should a protest happen.
Our textbooks call Athens the birthplace of democracy yet we were surrounded by instances and historical memories that called that claim into question. Upon this realization, I instantly thought of similarities to the United States.
The questions began to flood through my mind. Was Westernization and American influence the stain on Greece’s democratic record? Were the racial tensions that plagued America infiltrating the streets of Athens? Or are the two occurring independently yet concurrently with one another?
My questions spiraled and spiraled until I saw this these words spray painted on the Polytechnio, the sight of a student uprising against the military junta controlling Greece from 1967-1974.
My eyes were glued to the message long enough for someone to call my name to keep up with the group as they rounded a corner up ahead. Seven words connected two countries across an entire ocean in the most profane and real ways I’d ever witnessed.
The cry to fight against police brutality that echoed among my own community found a compatriot in a country most of us would never step foot in.
When I came back to the States, those words and those questions never left my mind. I shared them and anyone and everyone who asked about my trip . It became the focal point of the trip.
But my questions never strayed. And so I sought out answers.