Somewhere nestled in a trunk with my baby book and purple satin Boston Latin jacket is a heirloom box filled with Greek drachma. Like most sentimental objects, these notes and coins are only valuable to me, but that may be about to change.
More than 48 hours have passed since the Greek people delivered their resounding 'No' vote in Greece's referendum. Desperate for heroes, the Greeks were seduced by Prime Minister Tsipras's shameless "Oxi" rallying cry (Google: OXI Day for context). Still, no deal is on the table as he had promised. Banks remain shuttered. Shortages grow by the hour. And ATMs are drying up faster than a bikini on Mykonos. Yet people dance.
So why is their collective OPA! my OMG?
For me, as a Greek immigrant's daughter, it's right back to the '70s. Traveling to Greece as a child left me with a ferry full of culturally-awkward memories that stay with me today. In the first grade, when my classmates returned from summer vacation boasting of hugging Mickey, I was saddled with tales of a sweaty dude in an unbuttoned shirt and smashed dinnerware. Nia Vardalos has got nothing on me.
Arriving at dusty, old Ellinikon Airport, we were greeted by not one or two relatives, but twelve. Can you imagine? We came bearing suitcases filled with tube socks, cigarettes, and toiletries. But I remember it was the contents of the manila envelopes padding my dad's jacket that mattered: American dollars. The Greeks went nuts for those.
Today, in a world where wealth is largely digitized, good old-fashioned cash is once again king -- or Zeus, if you like -- in Greece. Money is power. Money is safety. Here in America, some say money is greed. For the Greek people, money is pride.
There is no dignity in watching Greek pensioners, some near the end of their lives, toeing the line for another inept Greek government. Queuing, in some cases for hours, under a hot Greek sun, they have been robbed, but not of money. Is this the stuff of heroes? For all the heroic chatter swirling around Mr. Tsipras, surely it didn't need to come to this.
Greece needs heroes, but more than that, she needs investors.
I shall leave debt restructuring and the Eurozone's culpability for the experts to dissect. Less obvious -- but just as complicit in this epic bailout saga -- are the deeply embedded ideas about the role of the state in the lives of the Greek people.
As one of the most inefficiently run countries in the civilized world, Greece must not only adopt painful reforms but shock its political and economic system toward a path of growth and innovation. Strikes and snap elections have long dominated a reflexive, distrusting populace on the brink. Corruption is tacitly accepted, because it works. And if you've ever had to navigate a civil matter in Athens, pack your patience. Stamping documents is not only an art form in Greece; it helps justify another useless government job. Greece needs a CEO, not another party-peddling ideologue. And if that doesn't work, there's always the Michael Bay approach: blow the whole thing up! (Figuratively, of course.)
Tsipras slayed the Minotaur (in Merkel) -- but can he lead Greeks out of the labyrinth?
Maybe Prime Minister Tsipras had a master plan beyond Sunday's so-called 'Greferendum.' If so, he'll join the ranks of Achilles among the Greek legends. But with each passing hour, it's seems doubtful. Instead of continuing on a rehabilitative road -- albeit slow and unsexy -- to real economic recovery, Tsipras has rendered Greece gasping for air and on life support. Now, in addition to Greece's credibility and the welfare of its citizenry, everything is at risk: partnerships with global industry, small business survival, and start-up creation -- as investors and CEOs increasingly compare Athens to Caracas.
Let's face it, the Grexit drama -- replete with its international cast of acronyms -- has become a cottage industry, particularly for the media. The endless headlines, metaphors, countdowns and ironies are simply too addictive for the world to ignore. But after the live reports from Syntagma Square end, it is the Greek people who must make their country work.
No one can predict what the future holds, let alone the next five days. Echoing Socrates' humility, there is only one thing I can say with absolute certainty: the daily pain of Greeks is palpable, and it won't leave on the journalists' outbound flights.
Please watch: "I Am One Greece," a campaign that captures the collaborative pulse connecting Greeks in the diaspora with the people of Greece.