Refugee crisis brings out best and worst in Hungarians

The following conversation was transcribed and published by Richard Field in The Budapest Sentinel, an English-language internet site that allows people unfamiliar with the Hungarian language to gain an understanding of the current situation in the country. I’m republishing this revealing conversation that was heard this morning with the permission of Richard Field.

Class FM

The following exchange took place this morning on Hungary’s leading FM radio station, Class FM, between Morning Show hosts Balázs Sebestyén (left) and György Nógrádi, and “Anna” (right), an actress who frequently goes on the show to complain about things that upset her.

When the subject turned to the thousands of Syrian, Pakistani, and Afghan refugees camped out at various train stations and parks in Budapest, the show departed radically from its usual mirthful format. In short, Sebestyén taught Anna a lesson she will never forget!

The original conversation can be heard in Hungarian here.

(Playful banter)

Balázs Sebestyén: You seem to be in a good mood.

Anna: I only appear to be. I’m actually not in such a good mood.

BS: What’s the matter?

Anna: Have you visited the vicinity of any of the train stations in Budapest recently?

BS: No, but I’ve heard about what is happening there. Do I hear correctly that we are turning to a serious theme? Do you want to talk a bit about the refugees?

Anna: Yes. I was going in the direction of the Nyugati (Western) train station the other day. There is a place that makes good chimney cakes and I thought I would take some home to my daughter. But then I decided not to buy them because I didn’t go there. What was going on in the train station was shocking. And Nyugati is nothing. If you go to the John Paul II square, or if you go to the area of Keleti (Eastern) station, it is really beyond belief the kinds of conditions you encounter. As someone who lives in this city, I reject this. . . . It’s filthy. I heard that it was necessary to disinfect Budapest public transportation vehicles because people used them who were diseased. Certain laws within the context of the Geneva convention say that the same people can come to Hungary without examination because they are migrants.

BS: Those who are granted asylum are examined.

Anna: But I suppose it’s a slow process because there are a lot of them.

BS: Yes.

Anna: The capital city is practically full of migrants.

BS: I don’t understand your position because there are two sides to this. On the one hand, you can lash out at the people responsible for these conditions, or you can hate the migrants themselves. I hope you are talking about the former, but I also understand if not because there are a lot of people in this country. . . . Actually, I cannot understand or accept this, or rather I find it easier to accept this than to understand it because I’m a tolerant sort of fellow . . .

Anna: But why?

BS: Who are you angry at? At them because they’re here? Or the conditions that they cause? Because I think it is very important to distinguish between the two, because the two are not the same thing. Are you upset over the condition their being here causes . . .

Anna: Both. I’m angry both at the conditions and the fact that they’re here.

BS: Because they cause the conditions.

Anna: Yes, because they cause the conditions. I’ll give you an example. If you say that you understand them because of your developed ego and once again we’re dealing on a humanistic . . .

BS: We need to discuss this. It is a serious subject and I’m happy to tell you what I think. So you’re angry at the refugees? You don’t like the refugees?

Anna: No, I don’t.

BS: Are you angry at them?

Anna: Yes, I’m angry at them. Because I think that in this country where we live with some difficulty, countries with much stronger economies are having a hard time dealing with the problem. Look at Great Britain or Germany where, in 2014, 11 million refugees registered themselves. They are pushing them back to eastern Europe after selecting out the more talented ones with higher qualifications, and 95 percent of them are coming back to Europe. . . . Let’s say someone with a scary face crawls through your window and sits down in your living room. And tells you or Viki [Sebestyén’s wife] to take care of him. You’ve got two small children, but now you’ve got three . . .

BS: I absolutely do not understand what you are talking about.

Anna: Taking them in. They’re here in your living room. You have to take care of them.

BS: Are you thinking of a case when someone breaks into my apartment?

Anna: You have to take care of them. There are three in your living room.

BS: You are really confusing matters. Are you saying you are afraid of them? Or are you saying that I as a citizen of Hungary have to take care of them?

Anna: You have to take care of them, you have to enroll their children in school . . .

Gyögy Nôgrádi: Isn’t that paid for with EU money?

Anna: EU money, EU money, EU money! You have to build schools, there is no economic benefit. That’s what a lot of people are saying. They are here, you have to educate them. It’s going to be a long time before they reach the point where they can have a job in Hungary.

BS: But don’t they want to move on?

Anna: But they can be returned to Hungary.

GyN: But they can be deported to Serbia.

Anna: Where they enter the EU is where they remain.

BS: I can respond very irately to those, including yourself, who try to incite against refugees with such a destructive attitude. I think that you are confusing things and that you don’t understand what this is fundamentally all about or how it came to pass.

Anna: I think I understand. How are we to support these underqualified people?

BS: One has to avoid them in the square. Listen Anna . . .

Anna: Both. Where will they work? What are they going to live from? I support them with my taxes. It is possible to return refugees to the point in the EU where they first entered. They make it to Germany, and they are returned to us.

BS: What do you say they are underqualified? How do you know who they are? How do you know there aren’t doctors among them?

Anna: They’ll end up in other countries.

BS: How do you know they aren’t engineers among them? Because there are doctors and engineers among them. We are not talking about underqualified people. What you’re saying? I think it’s terrible that you think this way.

Anna: But why is terrible? It’s not terrible in the least.

BS: Listen, we know where they are coming from. These people are fleeing civil wars.

Anna: From Syria, Afghanistan

BS: We know what’s happening in Syria. We know what the Islamic State is doing in Syria. We know what is happening in Afghanistan. We know whom to thank for this. These people travel many thousands of kilometers on foot. They were persecuted, beaten, raped. Children are coming without their parents. We don’t have to think about whether we like them or not. Our only task as human beings is trying to help these people in a non-judgmental manner. Because that is a normal European attitude.

Anna: Aha

BS: As for what each country does with this in their domestic politics, let’s not get mixed up in that, because this card has already been played in partisan politics. It was played in the past. They’re playing it now. Let’s try to completely separate the two things. I don’t want to get political and I’m not going to get political.

Anna: But this is politics. It cannot be avoided.

BS: But it is possible to separate the two from one another. Either you believe in what the government communicates on this subject or you don’t because there is sympathy in you, there is empathy in you, and you want to help.

Anna: But how can you help them? Muslim women do not accept water from men. They are trying to distribute water at Nyugati but the Muslim women won’t accept the water from men because their religion does not permit it.

BS: How are the numerous civil initiatives helping them? We’ve heard positive developments over the past day or two about facilities they are building in Budapest and what Budapest mayor István Tarlós said, I think this development is very good. Let’s try to treat these people as human beings by handing out food, or water, or civilians showing them how to travel across Hungary. Don’t forget that it is only because of misleading communication that you think 95 percent of these people want to remain here. These people want to move on. They enter the country. They don’t know which station they have to go to.

Anna: But where do they want to go?

BS: Sweden, Germany. It’s not true that these people want to settle here. These people don’t want anything other than to move on as quickly as possible. They sleep in the rain. They sleep out in the open. There are children who are playing with adults at the Nyugati station because both parents died. Responding to hatred with hatred is outrageous.

Anna: I’m not responding with hatred. These are facts.

BS: I understand that this is a common European problem and I also understand that we cannot solve this problem alone.

Anna: There are 65 million refugees in the world at this very point in time!

BS: You are mixing two things up. One is that this country cannot solve the problem.

Anna: No, I don’t.

BS: That certain countries are trying to solve this problem in the wrong way, that is a question of partisan politics. Let’s not talk politics. Let’s talk about our responsibility as human beings. And what is that? Regardless of what the government does or what it communicates, human dignity requires that we give them water and try to help. Not buy gas pistols, or beat a girl from Szeged because we think her boyfriend is a refugee. We also know that 99 percent of these refugees don’t bother anyone. The horror stories that are circulating are part of the disinformation.

Anna: I didn’t say that they harm people.

GyN: They don’t harm Hungarians. If there were any atrocities it was among themselves.

Anna: (Sarcastically) I didn’t realize that they were nothing but gentle persons, forgive me! We are talking about a huge group of deeply unqualified people.

BS: Is a deeply unqualified person less of a person than those of us who happen to be living in flats, living normal lives, and aren’t at war, and aren’t being raped, and they aren’t killing us?

GyN: There are also unqualified Hungarians.

Anna: Yes, but this is our country and they are here. You said, for example, in the case of the living room, they enter your home. Then you should also accept their customs. They use your bathtub as a toilet. Afterward you say we don’t use our bathtub as a toilet. Or you’re watching the Federer match and they switch the channel to . . .

BS: One, they don’t enter our homes. Two, they sleep on the ground. Three, they want to move on. I think you are really confusing matters. You mustn’t confuse them.

Anna: Who says they intend to move on in the hope of a better life? Yes, many will continue on to Germany. In Sweden, there is a huge amount of crime caused by immigrants, in whose vicinity there is 99 percent more crime.

BS: Anna, the fact is that this is a common European problem and that we need to respond to it collectively in an empathetic and human manner. Hungary alone cannot solve the problem regardless of how well or badly its government communicates the situation. It is the responsibility of politics to find a solution. As an ordinary person, you should think about what would happen if you were to find yourself in a similar situation. What if you had to sleep in train stations? What if nobody spoke your language? What if you had one child, and that child is standing alone in the train station because it has neither a mother nor a father?

Anna: I cannot debate moral questions with you.

BS: What about 1956?

Anna: That’s completely different.

BS: How so? In 1956 they took in 200,000 people fleeing Hungary. 4 million after the Balkans war . . .

Anna: But they left for political reasons. These migrants have left for economic reasons in the hope of a better life.

BS: Are you saying that in Syria where there is ISIS and in Afghanistan, the reason they are leaving is . . .

Anna: These are economic refugees.

BS: No, they aren’t. These people have nowhere to return to. 95 percent of the people arriving here are not economic migrants.

Anna: Then why aren’t those countries with stronger economies helping? For example, the United States, which caused this whole situation in the region? Why doesn’t it go there, put Syria in order? Why doesn’t Saudi Arabia take these people in? After all, they’re Muslims.

BS: You are right about us not being able to solve the problem. They are responsible for 64 million refugees.

Anna: But they’re here and we have to solve the situation.

BS: This is our task. You cannot answer violence with violence. We can answer with solidarity and humanism. If you go and press three bottles of mineral water into their hands . . .

Anna: I’m not going to press bottles of mineral water into their hands. I’m not going anywhere near Nyugati station.

BS: But that is not the good solution.

Anna: I’m sorry. That’s how I see it.

BS: Even just two days ago before civil society starting helping them, these people—2,000, 4,000, 6,000 of them—were wandering around the country. They don’t know where they are supposed to go. Nobody was helping them. From this point of view, this country again gets an “A.” You know why? Because whatever happens, the country has proven that humanity remains within us. It’s one thing what the politicians communicate in Austria, Germany, Great Britain. It’s another thing that there is solidarity in us. They give them water. They help them. They provide for them. They take food to them. Children are given toys. We mustn’t respond in any other way. The politicians or the EU will solve the problem, although it is very difficult . . .

Anna: How many are going to leave the country and how many are going to remain here that we have to take care of?

BS: That’s a political question. You cannot say that you hate them because we are talking about people who are in trouble.

Anna: I don’t hate them, I just dislike the conditions in the vicinities of the train stations. As somebody who lives in the city, I have the right to see things this way.

BS: We are talking about women! We are talking about children!

Anna: I understand what you’re saying.

BS: There are children in the Nyugati station. We cannot say to them “you have to leave.” It’s terrible that groups are forming to assault them. A person hears this and . . .

Anna: Well, that’s the other side.

BS: You cannot respond to this with hatred. I don’t understand you.

Anna: I am not responding with hatred. We are in living in city of two million. At this moment this is a huge problem in Europe. A terrible problem.

BS: Terrible! You’re right.

Anna: And the EU is not even prepared for this. And the EU has handled this badly. And we aren’t going to be able to solve the problem. What’s happening? What do you need to do?

BS: You need to say that I will do what I can as a human being.

GyN: But will such an attitude bring about a solution?

BS: It won’t solve the problem.

Anna: That’s the point!

(Everyone talking at once).

BS: But at least some families will be happier because they were able to bathe.

Anna: But these are moral questions. What is the solution? If they are here, they have to be educated, because they are uneducated. What do you do with them?

GyN: They don’t want to assimilate. They don’t even want to live here.

BS: We need to give a helping hand to them, at least on the level of giving them something to drink and to eat. That’s our responsibility.

Anna: But that’s happening in the country. They give them something to drink and eat.

BS: If you found yourself in such a situation together with your child, and you were sleeping somewhere in Germany in a train station in the rain, what would you expect? Tell me.

Anna: I’m sure I would also be glad if you helped me.

BS: Then what are you taking about?

Anna: Of course, I would be happy. But I’m not . . .

BS: You’re lying there in the rain with your child. There are three children next to you who are asking everyone “Where’s my mother? Where’s my father?” because they were shot in the war.

Anna: But why did they leave?

BS: Are you saying someone should come over and kick them? Or to get hold of a gas pistol? Or say to them “I’m not giving you anything, go away because you are dirty and smelly!”

Anna: Obviously, they are going to help them.

BS: What’s happening now, we can only collectively help as civil society as a way of assisting politics, which, thank God, is starting to work better. Do what do you expect? Tell me.

Anna: Obviously, everybody would expect that kind of assistance, but I say that even in that case what is happening here is shocking.

BS: The most important thing I want to you understand is that your goal is not to find a solution. Because you cannot solve the problem because you are not in a position to solve the problem. Our duty as people, as civilians, is to help. We need to communicate that we are not afraid of them, that we want to help them, and that we have to solve this problem together. We have no other task. Do you understand the point?

Anna: Of course, I understand. How wouldn’t I understand your point?

BS: I cannot answer any of the questions you raise that need to be solved. As a civilian you cannot respond with hate.

Anna: I am not responding with hate. I am reacting to what is happening around us where we live. What you are harping on are moral questions. In the long run, I want to hear solutions. Because a significant number of them will remain here. It will be necessary to build schools for them. They want to work. They want to be happy. But I am barely able to be happy here. I am not prejudiced. But first I would like to be happy because this is my home. I am at home here in this country. Perhaps you don’t like what I’m saying, but that is what I think.

BS: There is somebody waiting on the other line who would like to respond to what you’re saying. Zsuzsa, hello. Have you been listening to us?

Zsuzsanna Zsohár: Yes, in secret.

BS: You work for Migration Aid, a civil organization, don’t you?

ZsZs: This is an organization without an organization that operates without money.

BS: What do you do? And who have you been able to help?

ZsZs: We are in the railway stations, at Nyugati, Keleti, and Déli, in Debrecen, Cegléd.

BS: You are dealing with these people on a daily basis. You know them better than anyone else. Who are these people?

ZsZs: They are the same as the people you would meet in a small Hungarian city. Masons, doctors, teachers, mothers, grandmothers, although most of the people coming this way are under the age of 40. . . . They are coming from the east, from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan. They are mostly young people, families. They are refugees. I’m certain that the child whose torso is full of shrapnel is not leaving for economic reasons.

BS: So he came from a war zone?

ZsZs: Yes. A lot of the people have war wounds. . . . MigSzol is working in Szeged. We are working mostly in Budapest. We have a Facebook page where people can find out what the refugees need. They need food, underwear (new, not used), and socks. So if you decide you want to help, we are waiting for you at 32 Arany János Street after 3 pm.

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August 7, 2015 6:24 pm

Wow, that was really something. I have been a fan of Balázs for a long time and think he’s pretty talented. I even liked his Jerry Springer-style TV show.

However, we should also remember that it was Balázs who made light of the gólyatábor rapes on air a few years back (or was it last year?). And I don’t think he faced any consequences for that either. So despite his enlightened views on the refugee crisis, the man certainly has his faults/blind spots as well.

August 7, 2015 8:21 pm

Damn, left-wingers are annoying.

Lutra lutra
Lutra lutra
August 8, 2015 1:07 am

… especially when they’re right

Live long and prosper
August 8, 2015 3:42 am

Haha, touché!

August 8, 2015 2:13 am

I would like to bring it to the attention to those who understand Hungarian an article published in HVG. Orban’s razor curtain not only “protects” Hungary from refugees but in a barbaric way kills the wildlife around it as it is often right in the middle of the natural walking routes.
A letter that was sent to Pinter was written by a an ex-Fiedesz mayor.

August 8, 2015 8:08 am

Cruelty to human and non-human animals go hand in hand. Orban and his cronies are despicable psychopaths. They can sleep at night because they have no hearts, just a bottomless and scruple-free lust for money and power. That their likes can come to and hold onto power in a nation in the heart of Europe is a signal shame of the 21st century. Their likes exist all over the world, but only in Hungary are they willingly sustained and supported by the populace. Yet, as we see, even in Hungary there are still people with hearts (and brains). All we can do is hope that they will one day prevail. Till then, suffering is ordained all round. The difference is that the non-human victims don’t even have a vote.

August 8, 2015 1:44 pm

Orbán vadgyilkoló kerítése – kübekházi aggályok (Orban’s wildlife killing fence)

Local government concerned about environmental impacts of fence. The structure will block movement path for fallow deer, roe deer and wild boars.

August 8, 2015 1:49 pm

We just discussed this on – many motorways in the EU (like the M7 south of the Balaton) have special “Green Bridges” for the animals – but this fence?
At least it shows again the idiocy of the Fidesz government …

August 8, 2015 4:22 am

Thank you Éva for posting this, as it helps to really put us all in the picture regarding the migrant situation.

I also think it would help if we stopped calling them migrants or immigrants, and instead referrred to them as refugees, for that is what they are.

In ’56, Hungarians were refugees, escaping from an intolerable, oppressive regime, in search of a better life with bettter incomes and the possibility to live in freedom in democratic countries.

That is exactly what these refugeees are doing only their plight is even more critical than that of the Hungarians was. Murder and sacking of entire villlages and towns, and the systematic rape and torture of women and children, should elicit our compassion, not wire fences.

August 8, 2015 8:12 am

D7 Democrat (@D7Democrat)
August 8, 2015 4:28 am

Look at Great Britain or Germany where, in 2014, 11 million refugees registered themselves. ”

11 million??!! For the love of God!

That is the kind of idiocy that is being stoked by Fidesz/Jobbik filth- do the uneducated masses of this country really believe 11 million refugees poured into the Uk and Germany last year?
Yes, they do because their inhuman and, let’s not beat about the bush, downright evil government tell them the earth is flat and their people believe them.

Scum hate-mongers like the 8th District Fidesz neo-nazi mayor Kocsis (his latest contribution to the situation is to deny women and children toilet facilities on the basis of their ethnicity) would be languishing in jail in any civilised democracy. In the governing party here he is one of their rising stars.

However, the fact that ordinairy citizens, although small in number, are doing their duty as human beings and helping the refugees does fill me with hope.

August 8, 2015 4:58 am
@D7 Democrat Donald Trump talks crazy shit, he is constantly lying, improvising, he has no clue about how the American democracy works (yeah, I would just tax the import of foreign cars the next day or send all those rapists back to Mexico etc.) and he is the most popular Republican candidate at present. In any case there are literally millions of decent Americans who totally believe what he says. Why would Hungarians be more educated or thoughtful? If some people say it’s 15m than it’s 15m, if they say it’s 50m then it’s 50m. Average folks are not in the position to question these numbers. I’d bet a lot of money that most Hungarians have zero clue about how many people actually live in German, the UK or in the EU. The other side, those opposing this crazy, aggressive, vile right-wing discourse would have to do something. But while activists and individuals are supporting the migrants in kind (for the time being, after a while I expect the enthusiasm to wane as enthusiasm tends to) the leftists politicians are all on holiday as usual, like when Jozsef Tobias, head of MSZP went on his well-earned annual vacation just during… Read more »
D7 Democrat (@D7Democrat)
August 8, 2015 5:56 am

“The right wing is fighting diligently and hard for its political survival, in order to regain its popularity as parties should in any democracy”

So, you believe Hungary is a democracy?
Moreover you believe the racist discourse being practised by the neo-nazis is acceptable “in order to regain its popularity”?

Then you are truly having a “lough” my friend.

August 8, 2015 9:18 am
This is the nature of the game. Bleeding heart liberals ignore it at their peril. Look at the campaigns of the Republicans (not just presidential ones) or those of the British Conservatives or the Liberals in Australia (who are actually conservative). All of them have been using overtly or covertly racist elements in their campaigns and all are in power right now. (Of course from time to time they sacrifice an overtly racist party member like Trent Lott, but it’s mostly for show so they would have deniability when comes to their policies which tend to favor white upper or at best middle class people). Are they respectable, legitimate parties? Like it or not, they are. The Republicans hold both houses and are not about to lose them, but should they gain the presidency they will undo decades of progressive legislation. This has a much higher likelihood than that of the Democrats ever holding the two chambers and the presidency. The point being this is what the liberals are up against and they aren’t winning. As to whether there’s democracy in Hungary. I agree, this is not a democracy, only a quasi-democracy that works well for the EU, the semblance… Read more »
D7 Democrat (@D7Democrat)
August 8, 2015 11:34 am

Didn’t answer my question- forget your obsession with the alleged left wing in Hungary:
in your opinion do you believe the racist discourse being practised by the neo-nazis is acceptable “in order to regain its popularity”?
Simple yes or no will suffice.

August 8, 2015 11:53 am

No, I don’t. But if that’s what’s going on (and Hungary is not unique in that regard) then you (or at least opposition politicians) can’t just simply say it’s unacceptable and then shut up claiming the practice is beneath you or simply ignore the matter saying nothing at all. Overtly or most subtly racist politicians are here to stay and the opposition politicians must deal with that situation rather than disappear entirely or cede the discourse to the other side or to NGOs. The unopposed racist discourse to me is symptomatic of the complete failure of the Hungarian left-wing. Insisting on people declaring their non-racism misses the bigger picture.

D7 Democrat (@D7Democrat)
August 8, 2015 7:09 pm

“No, I don’t. But if that’s what’s going on….”
Ah, my friend, should have stopped after your first sentence.
Once you start justifying the “political reasoning” behind the nazi scum’s discourse then you become part of the problem.

In 1944 would you have justified the Arrow Cross’s genocide because the left/liberals weren’t putting up a strong enough alternative?
Think about it.

August 9, 2015 3:51 am
Well it certainly seems to me that I’m not the obsessed one. I try to reformulate. Let’s suppose for a second that we are in 2015 (there’s no Holocaust going on) and the right-wing has created and is fueling a racist, anti-immigrant discourse. You are a taxpayer paid Hungarian opposition politician (you aren’t, I know, but let’s suppose for a sec) what do you do? (A) Nothing. Citing Hungary isn’t a democracy any more you go on your well-earned holiday. (B) Strategise, plan, think, work, try to oppose and undermine the racist discourse so that average people wouldn’t assume that racism is the default political opinion (since it goes unopposed by political parties). Work for your money and your principles. [Too bad that besides lacking principles, you are also lacking the media channels to reach voters because you allowed the right-wing to take over the media and you are afraid to do anything for fear that your opinion will be deemed too ‘controversial’ (unpopular), so you are frozen.] Opposition politicians can not let NGOs do politics because they are independent, this is the job of parties. They cannot allow the discourse of the right-wing go unchallenged because people will naturally… Read more »
August 10, 2015 6:54 pm

One thing that rings very true in your responses is the fact that it is not up to NGO’s, volunteers or the average citizen to sway voters away from racism, however, it is the average citizen that teaches their children to hate and this is one cycle that also needs to stop and this can only be done by the people themselves. I do agree however, that the political left is going to have to pick up their game if it is not too late. I see there being a possible step back in time to 1944 if we do not take control of this. I do see the left doing things to combat it, but not enough.

August 8, 2015 3:40 pm

aha. And who won the last two presidential elections in the United States?
It seems like you don’t know – as if, maybe, you didn’t have a clue.

August 9, 2015 3:03 am

Your argument is like the Donald’s, hey, we had a lot of snow this year and those liberals are talking about global warming?

101 : George Lakoff wrote Don’t think of an elephant back in 2004 (reissued and updated in 2014) and apparently you still haven’t read it.

And this is just a very-very basic book about the US political developments about which otherwise in a more sophisticated manner entire libraries have been written, it seems to me you are unfamiliar with the relevant literature.

August 9, 2015 1:27 pm
Who cares what George Lakoff said? We’re not in a freshman course on American politics. Look at what is actually happening now. In referenda majorities in certain states have voted to legalize marijuana, to allow gay marriage (now nationalized by the Supreme Court), and one state (Oregon) has voted to give illegal immigrants resident in the state resident status if they enter university (that is, they will pay as much as all residents – not the higher non-resident fees that people coming from other states must pay). The public seems to have moved to the left on so many issues. So, not surprisingly, if you watched the (very weird) Republican presidential “debate,” you will have noticed that certain Republican candidates came with positive words about gay people (“love my daughter unconditionally…”) for improving the lot of the poor, for improving health care, for improving things for veterans, and even (gasp) for helping immigrants integrate into American society. There were, of course, the many, many moments of ridiculous populism, and of attacks on Obama and Clinton (fair enough) – but that was what most people were expecting. In that “debate” Republican candidates for the presidency embraced liberal positions. Moreover, the Fox… Read more »
August 9, 2015 2:36 pm
I agree than on some controversial social issues like gay marriage or medical marijuana the consensus moved to the left. (Though abortion on the other hand was totally rolled back as a matter of practice as only in 15% of the counties of the US it is still available and the legal battle is still ongoing to overrule Roe.). That said the political picture is much more complex and doesn’t at all look bright for the progressives ie. who would want more or less what is already mainstream in Europe. Just last week in the NYTimes there a long article titled “The Dream Undone – Inside the 50-year campaign to roll back the voting rights act”. This article is just one recent example underscoring the extremely disciplined, long-term strategic operations of the American right-wing about which the libraries were written. I certainly wouldn’t exclude the possibility that these candidates now play the “compassionate conservative” (which already worked so well once) and then they will roll back (or at least gut) if not the Affordable Care Act then the NEPA, the Clean Air Act, cut more taxes (in order to force the cutting of expenditures on social programs), anti-discrimination acts, privatize… Read more »
August 9, 2015 3:15 pm
What discipline? What strategy? And why bring up G.W. (not WH) Bush jr.? Those were politics of a decade ago. THEN they had discipline. Now? Strategy: They have lost every major battle before the public (those pesky Westerners and their lousy referenda), and have had to adopt positions that they would have abhorred a decade ago. They are even talking, now as a party, about rolling back the “war on drugs” and softening prison sentences. That is part of the liberal agenda. Republicans now only have tactics in battle, but no strategy is discernible. Discipline? Look at Boehner’s problems. Republican leaders can’t control their own people in Congress. Look at Trump. He’s all over the page. He may well run as an independent if he doesn’t get the nomination. Trump is a gift to the Democrats – so far to the right that if he is nominated, Democrats will certainly win (the center-right and Mexican-Americans will not vote for him), and if he is not nominated and runs as an independent he will take votes away from whomever the Republicans do nominate. So, where’s the strategy? Please do let me know. Gay marriage. Legalization of pot (not just for medical… Read more »
August 9, 2015 3:22 pm

P.S. Whoever wins the presidential elections, may the split between Congress and the White House last! In my view, American politics work best when the President and legislature are from different parties.
That is a very common view among Americans out West, where I’m from – Washington should leave us alone. Gridlock is great! Live and let live.

August 8, 2015 4:34 am

In Hungarian. Two Hungarian security guards have a short conversation while standing in line at the check out counter just behind a pregnant lady (who happens to be the wife of a journalist).

August 8, 2015 5:33 am
Even though Balázs may at times devolved in to “Howard Stern” levels of “comedy”, I do appreciate the guy. Overall he comes across as being exceptionally talented and thoughtful. In person he has a very no-nonsense personality. The surprise here is that he works hard to avoid political discussions (remember, his masters are Fidesz). I only recall him speaking once about some ridiculous political event. So to take this on is surprising. A truly free media would be taking the government to task over allowing this disgusting situation to evolve in this way. Instead they avoid interviewing people such as Zsuzsanna and toe the party line…incite hatred and violence. Nice!!! If Hungarians want to be honest about the situation around the train stations… the sanitary were already quite poor at the best of times. The tunnels around the stations have always reeked of human excrement of all types. It’s kind of misleading or maybe, convenient to start complaining of this only now. SOT but certainly relevant is this weeks edition of “This American Life” where there covered the accidental re-integration of blacks into white school in the St. Louis area. The statistics presented during the show though some what flawed,… Read more »
August 8, 2015 9:47 am

Bravo, Balázs!

Reality Check
Reality Check
August 8, 2015 10:26 am

Hungarian Helsinki Committee on changes to Hungary’s refugee laws
from Budapest Beacon

August 8, 2015 3:22 pm

Hope lies with the new generation. They have humanity and empathy to the plight of the less fortunate. We can hear that in a speech given by a 9-year old girl earlier this year (in English) on Budapest homelessness. Just replace homeless with migrants. The message is the same: Empathy and humanity.

The migrant issue in Hungary is indeed testing the boundaries of our humanity and our ability to independently think and act. If a 9-year old child can feel the way she expressed it, then Anna and all other Annas may wish to take a step back and do some honest soul-searching. They should jump out of the bandwagon to purge themselves from blind and irrational hatred. They would then, hopefully, embrace empathy and reclaim their precious humanity.

August 9, 2015 8:28 pm

I like this kid. Why? Because she thinks ‘outside’ of herself into another world divorced from her immediate surroundings. On the other hand I am of two minds in that should we protect her from the two by four blows to come in the world of practical politics or let her idealism get battered as there are some who hate what she suggests?

I’d like to know where this girl will be in 10, 15 or 20 years. I have no idea but perhaps Hungary should. I wish this girl the best in her endeavors since it will be Hungary’s youth that will decide and steer its future. I’d like to think they will make good choices.