Their Country In Turmoil, Some Greeks Now Lash Out At Each Other : Parallels As Greeks argue about how their troubled country should reform, the debate has often turned personal and nationalistic. Some people are even accusing each other of treason.

Their Country In Turmoil, Some Greeks Now Lash Out At Each Other

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Protesters in Athens tonight demanded that their government stick with the euro.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting in Greek).

MCEVERS: And there are signs that the Greek crisis might be approaching a solution.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The Greek government has submitted a proposal that news reports say includes a commitment to raise taxes and cut pension benefits in order to win a third bailout. The terms of the proposed bailout are reportedly much tougher than any of the previous loans. In return, some European leaders are trying to persuade their colleagues to consider ways to restructure Greece's huge debt.

MCEVERS: And Greeks, with their economy near collapse and banks emptied of cash, are lashing out at each other, even throwing around accusations of treason. As Joanna Kakissis reports from Athens, the debt crisis has reopened painful historical wounds.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Konstantinos Koutsantonis is a 22-year-old university student. He considers himself a conservative. He voted yes for a bailout deal in last Sunday's referendum because he believes Greece can only reform its economy within the eurozone.

KONSTANTINOS KOUTSANTONIS: Some days ago, you know, when the crisis really exploded, you know, in Greece and everyone was talking about the referendum and the political news, I had to express my opinion.

KAKISSIS: Koutsantonis complained on Facebook that the referendum was a bad move because it could be perceived as anti-European. Many criticized him, including a childhood friend who called him a Germanotsolias.

KOUTSANTONIS: It's something like a traitor, that you want to promote the German interests and not the Greek ones.

KAKISSIS: Germanotsolias is one of the worst things you can call a Greek. It's the same term that was used for Nazi collaborators. Stathis Kalyvas, an Athens-born professor of political science at Yale University, explains.

STATHIS KALYVAS: So as part of the counterinsurgency efforts that the German occupiers launched it Greece, in 1944, they created a body who fought on their side, the local militia, so to speak.

KAKISSIS: These militias often attacked leftist Greek resistance fighters during World War II. And during the bloody civil war that followed, the country was further divided between left and right. Greek novelist Thanassis Valtinos lived through both wars as a child.

THANASSIS VALTINOS: (Through interpreter) Greece was absolutely destroyed in that war. More people were killed, and there was much more catastrophe than during the German occupation during World War II.

KAKISSIS: He says Greeks should be united today, not reliving wartime divisions. That's why he's angry that people are trying to score political points by comparing austerity to the suffering Greeks endured during the war.

VALTINOS: (Through interpreter) Back then, people were dropping dead of hunger in the streets. Children were walking skeletons. Yes, it's very hard today, but it's not a humanitarian crisis. They don't realize the humanitarian crisis is coming. It could be at our door.

KAKISSIS: Valtinos says he knows people are suffering now but worries that people will suffer far more if Greece tumbles out of the eurozone and reverts to the drachma, its previous currency. Kalyvas, the professor, also worries at how caustic the debate has become between the left and right in Greece, with both sides questioning each other's patriotism. He says Syriza, the leftist party now running Greece, too often blames foreign powers for the country's problems.

KALYVAS: It's a very 1960s leftist view that Greece is not really an independent country but is a kind of colony, a puppet in the hands of the Americans beforehand, the Germans now. Who knows whom tomorrow? So it's a very nationalist perception.

KAKISSIS: But the subtext, he says, is really about the economic reforms being demanded by international lenders and whether Greeks can modernize their country alone or whether they will need help from the outside to do so. For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Athens.

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