Friday, March 09, 2007

Getting Prepped for March 15th

Today we had tarhonyas hus, meat stew cooked with small pasta bits called tarhonya. Tarhonya may well be one of my favorite foods. Tarhonya is one of the oldest food types in Hungarian culture, going back to the horse-on-the-steppes days in the 8th century. Even today, tarhana is considered the national dish of Tatarstan, and in Istanbul you can get tarhana soup at any supermarket. I was going to write something about the political atmosphere in Hungary, but just researching the topic made me frustrated… we have another major Hungarian national holiday coming up on March 15th, and the right wing opposition groups that made such a mess of Budapest during last October’s riots are prepping up for another day of demonstrations against the Socialist-led government. It’s not that I don’t find Hungary’s right wing less than amusing. Hungary’s right wing leads the European pack when it comes to getting crazed, deluded nationalist football hooligans, Scythian historical reanactors, and angry old ladies out into the street…
Here we see somebody dressed as a Hun being stymied in his attempt to negotiate a Budapest metro ticket machine. This was on the day of a recent FIDESZ demonstration in front of the Terror House Museum. The idea that Hungarians are descended from noble Scythians is quite popular on the Hungarian right, dovetailing nicely with similarly odd wingnut theories such as the persistant claim that Hungarians are descended from the Sumerians... and that Jesus himself was therefore Hungarian. I could not possibly make this stuff up myself...Is the radical Hungarian right led by charismatic leaders? Or just pitiful old nutjobs? The leader of the Kossuth Square demonstrators – who has just been given permission to hold a peaceful demonstration near the Parliament again – is known for carrying his personal totem, a plastic toy cow on a stick with dinosaur glued to it. This is not somebody who would easily find employment in a kindergarten. It isn’t just the right wing nutcases that are getting worked up. This week the Budapest Jewish community leader (OK, the Neolog community on Sip utca…) Peter Feldamjer gave an interview to Israeli radio urging Hungary’s Jews to leave the country on March 15th if they wanted a peaceful day. Now, not many of us get Israeli radio in Hungary, but that’s beside the point. Feldmajer’s statement puts to rest the idea that Jews are smarter than other people. A lot of the resentment comes from FIDESZ and Viktor Orban recently defending the use of the red-striped Arpad Flag by contemporary right wing demonstrators. The Arpad flag is essentially identified with the Arrow Cross terror that gripped Hungary towards the end of World War Two. It’s rather like marching around with a swatstika. FIDESZ contends that the Arpad flag is a legitimate symbol of Hungary, since it was used in the middle ages and during the Rakoczi rebellion in the early 1700s, which is like pointing out that swastikas were used before the Nazis by Hindu temple designers and Inca weavers. Yes, there has been a lot of open anti Semitism on the right lately – because that’s what the right wing does in Hungary. Blaming invisible conspiracies of super-intelligent Semites for everything rings resonant on the right, because the communists wouldn’t let Hungarians use anti-Semitic terminology in public discourse. Therefore, with the commies gone, smearing Jews is a taste of freedom for the radical rightists. Except that we are talking about less than ten percent of the Hungarian people. Really. They are a loud and annoying radical right wing ten percent, but it isn’t like we are in Berlin in 1939 or Kishenev in 1906. We have a week until the big demos. Personally, I don't know what is going to happen, but I am not dropping my knishes and heading for the hills anytime soon.

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