I woke up this morning and found a handful of text messages and emails from friends in Greece. They were all pretty funny, some tongue in cheek, while others with a tone of astonishment.
“Πάτε καλά?” one said, which means something like “Seriously?!” or “Are you guys real?” when compared to English vernacular.
Another friend wrote… “And this is the Astoria you live in and brag about? No thanks.”
All of the messages had a link attached to it– a news story from Greece’s leading daily newspaper Kathimerini. I don’t want to link to the story because I’ll just perpetuate its ignorance and inaccuracies, but I’ll do my best to share the gory details.
It starts with a headline “Why Astoria is voting for Trump, and with a difference.”
This type of generalizing headline itself, belongs in a gossip magazine or tabloid and doesn’t belong in a reputable publication like Kathimerini. I liken this kind of headlines in Western media that we’ve all become accustomed to but cringe when we read them… Because we know they’re not true.
Like the ones about all Greeks being lazy…
Or that all Greeks are corrupt tax-evaders…
Like most bait headlines designed to attract clicks, it contains a preposterous blanket assertion that all of Astoria’s Greeks are voting for Donald Trump.
It’s the kind of stuff that perpetuates the long-held stereotypes that Greeks in Greece think of with regards to their cousins across the Atlantic.
And it’s the kind of generalizing that drives me absolutely batty– because it’s not true.
The author of the piece goes on to interview a handful of people during a stroll down Astoria’s Greek streets, listening to one person after the other proclaiming his or her opinion on the upcoming elections when asked the question “Hillary or Trump?”
Out of the 7 or 8 people she interviewed, all but one said they were supporting Donald Trump. One woman even had the audacity to say that she was voting for Trump because “women shouldn’t be in politics. They should be home with their families.” Yes… This is a real quote by someone living in the 21st century. But this is beyond the point of my rant.
My beef isn’t with who these people are voting for. It’s America, after all, and freedom of expression is our landmark ideal. We’ve grown up in this country with the belief that even if I disagree with you, I’ll defend your right to have and express your opinion because that’s what ‘freedom of speech’ means, ultimately.
My problem lies with the perpetuation of stereotypes, which the Kathimerini headline writers have no problem doing.
I lived in Astoria for almost a year and a half and unlike the author, who came for a quick visit, have gotten to know dozens upon dozens of residents, business owners, students and families in the predominantly Greek neighborhood.
To prove such stereotypes wrong, I conducted my own “unscientific survey” this morning via Facebook messenger, SMS message and email, asking about 100 people I know, INCLUDING MANY REPUBLICANS, whether or not they were voting for Donald Trump and if they’ve heard that Astoria was voting for him with a big difference, as the Kathimerini headline insinuates.
Out of the 100 messages I sent, I received 87 responses. The results were informative, comical and enlightening.
In a nutshell, no, Kathimerini, Astoria is NOT voting for Trump with a Big Difference.”
Of the 87 people who responded, ONLY one person who identified as a Republican said “Yes, but please don’t publish my name. I would never publicly acknowledge it.”
Eight others who identified as republicans either said they were voting for a democrat, or were not voting at all.
The balance of my interviewers responded overwhelmingly that they had voted for Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. Some of the more interesting responses:
“Ha! Greeks voting for Trump is like blacks voting for a KKK grand wizard!”
“As a republican 100% I don’t have the conscience to vote for Donald Trump. I’ll be sitting out this election.”
“Trump? Never in a million years.”
“Hillary. Hillary. Hillary.”
“Everyone I know voted for Sanders. My dad, who is a hardcore republican said he would vote for Hillary because she loves Greeks.”
Finally, a friend who was born and raised in Astoria and who worked in politics for a Republican governor and who has decades of intimate involvement with the Greek American community in Astoria wrote me this:
“That’s ridiculous. First of all, most Greeks in Astoria are registered democrats. Secondly, practically all are immigrants or descendants of immigrants. Trump is completely anti-immigrant so that’s an oxymoron. Of course, there are some ignorant, young, entitled Greek-Americans who never had to work a day in their lives (thanks to their immigrant parents) who might actually succumb to the Trump rhetoric. But to say that Astoria’s Greeks are overwhelmingly voting for Trump is just ridiculous.”
So no, Kathimerini and its readers… All of Astoria isn’t voting overwhelmingly for Trump. You’re misrepresenting the truth and reality, just so you can perpetuate the typical stereotypes that we’ve already seen in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” and quite frankly, aren’t true.
Perhaps a more appropriate and realistic headline would have been “The Seven People I interviewed on the Streets of Astoria are Voting for Trump.”