May the soul of the two policemen who were killed unjustly and violently today in Greece rest in piece. And-may we Greeks wake up and understand one day that we must equally grieve the death of an innocent young person, independently of him being a POLICEMAN or a 17 YEAR OLD SCHOOL BOY. I suggest that we establish public death memorial services, the attribution of honours and strong media coverage for everyone that dies suddenly and unjustly- and STOP JUDGING the irreparable loss of human life SELECTIVELY.
Looking back to three years before, the whole greek population was lamenting the loss of a 17 year old boy, killed -undoubtedly- unjustly by a policeman. Alexis was young, in the beggining of his life, possibly full of unredeemed dreams. No one would expect that his life could come to an end so suddenly, so cruelly, so early. He was simply found the innapropriate moment to the wrong place. Was it fate? Noone knows. What everyone seemed to fully endorse was that they should grieve his lost soul, peacefully and violently demonstrate against his ‘murderers’ and establish public memorial services every year. Those months, greek media were on fire after that tragic incident. Indignation, rage, sorrow, eyes full of tears, roses, love messages and sudden love crushes from teen girls,were present everywhere- in the tv, the radio, the press, the streets. Α new national holiday has been established since. You would hear people asking for ‘2 minutes of silence dedicated to this boy’ at schools and public places.
There is absolutely no doubt that this child deserves all the honours, grief, messages of love and a strong manifestation of pain by his co-citizens. He was just a child – no matter his character, behavior, any of his attributes-, he was only 17 years old. Who deserves to leave this life at such an early age? No one. In these cases, we should never judge who the person was-for, everyone deserves to have the opportunity to grow up and live, to decide what to accept and what to reject, to fulfil -or at least try to- his expectations, his biggest dreams.
However, I have to express a deep concern-that has been turning around my head- especially after the death of two young policemen yesterday. Τhree years ago, we came across as a country that expresses a strong emotional vibe, manifests her pain collectively, grieves when a part of her body is detached (Alexis was one part of the body of Greece), and tells apart the unfairness. We bravely proved that we still feel the unjustice, the irrationality of such a death. At the same time, we felt a collective damage manifesting its presence.
Within the passage of the next three years, our public life has widely witnessed the excrucations of policemen in different circumstances and an unjustified blind violence and rage against them. Many policemen have been hold to public execration, have been exposed to a widespread odium and have found themselves accountable for crimes that they may have never commited. Even though some policemen have indeed been acting violently towards vulnerable social groups like immigrants (and I totally condemn this behavior),after the death of Alexis, almost every policeman was directly or indirectly accused of being a criminal, an ‘animal’, and this profession has turned out having detestable associations. It is true that many greek policemen have been acting- and still do- innapropriately, violently and therefore should bear the burden of these consequences. But the blind equalization of every policeman under the stigma of a ‘criminal’, is a deplorable attitude of a society that is proud of being called democratic. After the ‘assassination’ of Alexis, the word ‘policeman’ acquired a new, revised meaning. It meant ‘killer’ and ‘pig’. If someone had the chance to walk in the streets of Athens, he would notice everywhere totally racist slogans against policemen, written in the walls, in the public toilet doors, in every place that could be clearly visible to the passιng citizens.The rage of the people after the tragic death of Alexis is justified, but what is not justified and contravenes the very notion of democracy and justice is the mass verbal and active violence towards the policemen as ‘policemen’.
Yesterday, two -22 and 23 years old- policemen were killed in their effort to stamp out a pavilion robbery. These people were simply performing their task when they were shot by the bandits. Eight more policemen were seriously injured. Τhis time they were not 17, but 23. So young. I wonder if the public opinion will ever protest so assertively against this murder (their death was without doubt a horrendous murder-one of them was shot in the head). I wonder if the whole country will pray for them, cry for them, praise them, leave them messages of love and roses, attend their funeral. To be more accurate, I highly doubt that something like that will happen. The media will dedicate two or three days, or even a week to this incident, and then something else will monopolize their interest. Most of the people will consider this event sad, but no one will get out to the streets to raise their voice against the irretrievable loss of two young, innocent lives. Is that fair? Absolutely not. This time ‘policemen’ were dead, so, ‘what’s the problem’? Even this public reaction is not articulated in this exaggerated way, the collective subconscious will not place such a big value on this death, as they did in the case of Alexis. Now there will not be any new public holidays in the loving memory of the two young policemen, no dislocation of the public sphere, no hysterical outbursts of love, no millions of groups and pages on facebook, no national lamentation. WHy? Is it right to defend with such a vehemence the lost soul of a 17 year old boy and not the ones of two 23 year old policemen? Is it because they were not juveniles? Is it because they were not going to school? Is it because they were just trying to perform their task required by the nature of their profession? Or is it just their profession itself?
No one complains about the tortures against policemen, about their inhuman treatment and now, about their death. Or hasn’t done so yet. It seems that to be a ‘policeman’ nowadays constitutes a curse.’ My dear son, please, never choose to be a policeman. It is a bad profession. You will suffer. You will put your life in danger in many of the police missions, you might experience serious injury. And don’t forget: People wont love you anymore. Not us, your family, but your fellow citizens. Haven’t you heard that becoming a policeman is a substitute for a criminal? Please, stay away from this sector.” That would be the advice of a mother to her child-potential policeman.
A death is always a death, whether it is a death of a young boy, of a middle aged man,of a young woman or of an old person. Considering this view, we could say that every death in our society, in the world, should be publicly bemoaned and become a national affair. This is unfortunately impossible. Although it should happen, it is sure it won’t. We tend to believe, however, than when it comes to a death of a child or of a young person, the case is even more dramatic. As I’ve already said, dying in a young age is unbearable, painful, tragic. The gift of the life given to somebody, is very quickly taken back by unknown and mysterious powers -is it God?is it the universe? no one knows-. The case of Alexis was very distinguishable because it has been considered as a murder by the forces of the state itself. I agree. It is so contradictory for the state to kill an innocent civilian-someone it was supposed to defend. And considering the fact that that ‘someone’ was a child, it is a pure crime. But wasn’t yesterday again the case of a crime? Two policemen who were trying to defend the order of their country and were at the same time risking their own life, were shot in the head! Isnt’t this a pure murder? Isn’t this deserving the public attention and exasperation? -let me clarify that I ‘m talking about public attitude because of the fact that the incidents I compare belong to the public sphere and involve the legal forces of the state-.
Are we right to discriminate against different young people who die? Are we right to honour one person and not others in similar conditions? Is this selective public attribution of honour acceptable? When we are talking about death, we can never select. Have we wondered enough about the lives of policemen? About the cruel conditions they work and live under? Is it permissible to equalize their behavior because of one of them killing a child? Or because of many of them commiting some unjust actions?
If we were so sensitive in the case of Alexis, we have to be so sensitive in any similar incident. We have to bemoan equally for the loss of other young lives. We can’t discriminate. We can’t wholly fight a criminal-policeman and now forget to lamentate the loss of two policemen who were murdered. We have to consider each incident regardless of stereotypes, racist attitudes, general features. Each person is different, each life is precious, each day is distinct, but unjust death is always the same.
A democracy can be characterized by mass protest, by mass indignation, rage, fight against commited injustices, but it is also characterized by the attribution of the same respect for every human life. No one deserves to be degraded because of a general feature, a special status or a stereotype attached to them. Let’s hope that slogans such as ”policemen, pigs, murderers” will cease to exist in the future. Let’s hope that mass soul will, through the passage of time, become more human (if human can be associated with peace, respect and justice), more just, more sensitive, less susceptible to violence, to aggression, to revenge. To begin with, let’s light a candle or just devote one minute of our day in the loving memory of these policemen. They could have been some of us.
**I wrote this article in March of 2011, when the two young policemen were shot dead in Athens.