Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Land of the Gods Ablaze

Greece is burning.

Since Friday, fires have been roaring in the land of the gods. Flames leap high to reach the sky, and thick, heavy clouds of acrid smoke blot out the sun. Powerful winds blow, feeding even more the blazes’ frenzy. It’s August, and the Meltemi sweeps across Greece, as it always does at this time of year.

Satellite images show the Peloponnesus as an erupting volcano. The Taygetos mountains are burning. The beautiful Taygetos mountains I watch from my writing spot whenever I’m in Greece. The beautiful Taygetos mountains I’ll be watching a week from now. What will be left of the forests draping their flanks? Desolation? Charred stumps of trees? Grey and black everywhere the eye can see?

Yesterday I watched the Greek satellite TV, and couldn’t bring myself to switch channels. My heart wrenching, I watched people howling their despair and their rage at this unspeakable catastrophe. I watched people threatening the roaring fires and being forced to withdraw at the last minute, on the brink of throwing themselves into the flames to fight them hand on hand. I watched an old woman explaining she had spent the night alone in a village ravaged by the flames, unable to flee. She was standing in the middle of the ruins, in front of the devastation that’s all that’s left of her life. I listened as she explained she got no help, she got no one to help her evacuate. I read reports of people in remote villages phoning radio and TV stations and pleading to be sent help so they could be evacuated before the fires caught up with them.

I listened to the people explaining that a great many fires had been started during the night between Friday and Saturday, which can mean only one thing: arson. Arson, dozens of them, even as all the rescue teams, planes and helicopters, were already stretched far too thin. Arson. This is beyond a simple crime linked to building speculation. This is deliberate murder. These are deeds foul and vile, the murder of people, the murder of a land which is the Western civilization’s beginning.

Cowards, fucking greedy cowards have brought hell on Earth, have transformed the land of the gods into the realm of Hades. Oh how I hope they get caught. How I hope they get tried, publicly. How I hope they spend the rest of their wretched lives in prison, and working to undo the damage they’ve done.

Greece is my second home. It’s the one other place in which my heart beats and my dreams soar high. It’s a place of peace, of serenity. And now…well, now, Greece is ablaze.

Popes try to cower the fires into quiescence, threatening them with their god’s power. There’s so much despair, so much empty courage in their pitiful, absurd attempts that I do not know whether to laugh or cry.

Greece has appealed for the EU’s help, and already countries have answered and sent water planes, helicopters and men. I can only hope that their added strength will help Greece to prevail. I can only hope the Meltemi’s powerful gales will abate and allow the rescue teams a chance to fight the hellish fires. I can only hope, when all is done, that the land, the earth, will lend its strength so that new life can grow. New trees, new plants. I can only hope those who have lost everything will have a way of rebuilding homes for themselves. I can only hope those who lost loved ones will somehow find the strength to endure and to go on.

Athena, if you’re listening and if you have a minute to spare, the land that is yours could really, really use a little bit of divine intervention.

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