David Mandler, Ph.D.

Thoughts, feelings, reactions on Hungarian, American, Israeli, Jewish issues

Month: January, 2013

In Memoriam Gerendási Jutka: A Túlélési Csomag

A Túlélési Csomag

Rossz hirem van—kezdte este
nagynénem és hangja erre
Rögvest elcsuklott és aztán
Megszólalni sem tudott.

Anyukádat nem érem el
Az értelmem nem fogja fel
Budapestről jött a hívás
Gerendási Jutka…szegény.

Többet mondania sem kell
Jutka elment örökre, el…

Minden nevetése zokog
Minden zokogása nevet
Tudta, nagyon sokat evett
Szendvedett is ettől Ő.

Vidámsága is szenvedés
Szenvedélye mindig zenés.
Örült, ha mulatni vitte
Gabi fia éjjelente.

Túlélési csomag nélkül
Nem indult el soha végül
Hosszú útra mindig vitt el
Magával két szendvicset.

Most mi akik túléltuk Őt
Ezt a meggyötört lelkü nőt
Kinek minden szavában benn
Fájdalmas humor szikrázott

Mit láthatunk már belőle?
A szeretet fénye dől-e
Ezután is kisfiára
Ki nem mászhatott fel a fára

Féltette a pillangóktól
Nem hogy szúnyogtól, dongótól
Kacagása kacagtatott
Mély sirása zokogtatott.

Gondolta-e szombat reggel
Hogy aznap milyen útra kel
Szendvics helyett  készített más
Túlélési csomagot?

Igen, vitt ám, hiszem, tudom
Az ezernyi jótett finom
Falatokat nyújt lelkének–
Jobb Neki mint a lepkének.

Megroskadva álljuk körül
Nem sír többet, nem is örül
Teste eltűnik hirtelen
Lelke röpdes könnyedén.

Az égi trónushoz érve
Arca ragyog, kicsit félve
Kéri az Örökkevalót
Hadd vigyázzon Gabira

Fentről tekint le most reá
Ne sírj fiam, ne ríj, ne má!
Amig élsz én Veled leszek
Senki sem lesi mit eszek

És nem sírok többé soha
Nősülj meg, lejövök oda
Megáldalak a hupánál
De most repülök fel, nosza!

Jutka, Jutka, hová lettél?
Tőlünk még búcsút sem vettél.
Találkozunk egyszer mi még
Ott ahol a legszebb az ég.

1/20/13 12:14 AM

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Backtracking and on the Offensive: the FIDESZ PR Machinery Strikes Back

If the article in which Zsolt Bayer, the influential opinion columnist of the Magyar Nemzet, characterizes a significant portion of Hungary’s gypsy population as animals unworthy of even “being” was repulsive, the reaction, non-reaction and, what I’ll call, retroaction of the ruling FIDESZ party–not to mention the official stance of the Magyar Nemzet–has been even more so.

Up to now, Mr. Viktor Orban, the Hungarian Prime Minister, has kept silent on the issue. Clearly, he was not ready to distance himself from such a useful tool as Mr. Bayer. Yet, the deafening silence of the Hungarian prime minister does not mean that Mr. Orban’s public relations machinery has done nothing to shape Hungarian public reaction as voices of condemnations arose in the first few days following the publication of Mr. Bayer’s vitriolic article.

That the opposition’s main figures would speak up against Mr. Bayer’s tone and conclusions was not in question. So much more surprising was the initial condemnation of Bayer’s article by the vice prime minister, Tibor Navracsics on January 7th. In an interview to ATV, the vice premier said as follows: “the piece by Zsolt Bayer contains assertions that assail democracy and mocks all such principles associated with the democratic community in which FIDESZ believes” [Bayer Zsolt írása súlyos, demokráciát sértő állításokat tartalmaz, s megcsúfol minden olyan demokratikus közösségi elvet, amiben a Fidesz hisz].

That was then.

Since then, the initial landscape of moral clarity has been muddied by party politics as oppositional forces mobilized in a small -scale demonstration against Mr. Bayer on Sunday, and the attempts at demonizing those who spoke up against him gathered steam. By then, though, it was clear that Bayer would not be allowed to fall victim to his own all-too-frank words. The Magyar Nemzet, which had issued a half-hearted apology on its website mixed with an attack against the left, later modified its press release by removing any references to an apology and, instead, stated the following partisan words: “The Magyar Nemzet not only renounces the newest witchcraft of the post-communists, but also calls on his readers and supporters to stand by our chief staffer [Bayer], our newspaper, and the nation’s government that has been doing its job.”

Zsolt Bayer himself published a follow-up article on Tuesday, three days after his initial article, in which he denies that he had ever suggested the liquidation of any gypsies and goes on the offensive against those who, in his view, deliberately misinterpreted his words. In fact, he now says, he favors total isolation and exclusion from social interactions of those gypsies who are violent (gone is the major modifier he had used earlier to characterize a “significant part” of gypsy society as animals. In his newest article, only a part of them are as such).

Sure. Deliberately misinterpreted.

As if those who read Bayer’s words had nothing better to do than to spend valuable time on trying to reinterpret and maliciously misinterpret his words. One cannot but observe that either Mr. Bayer is stupid or those readers of his article who found it to be an unabashed incitement for “anything” (including violence) to solve the “Gypsy Question” (the way Mr. Bayer puts it, echoing the “Jewish Question” formulation of the anti-Semites of old).

Then, on Monday, even the Vice Prime Minister, Mr. Tibor Navracsics, backtracked. As reported on index.hu, he now believes that Bayer’s follow-up piece has made it clear that even Bayer had seen some problems with his earlier piece and, knowing Bayer, the Vice Primer Minister says, he “does not assume that Bayer seriously believed what he wrote on Saturday.” It is, to say the least, rather curious to propose that a person’s words do not matter (especially when the person in question is a journalist) and can ascribe a motivation contrary to that person’s words simply based on the fact that one “knows” that person and, surely, could not possibly have meant it. It is even more curious when one reacts to the words of that person with condemnation a week before only to reverse oneself a week later. Be it as it may, the vice PM may be following the prime minister’s now infamous statement at the U.S. embassy–according to wikileaks–in which he sought to reassure the concerns regarding certain statements he had made.  Mr. Orban at the time is reported to have said the following: “don’t pay attention to what I say. Pay attention to what I do.”

So, if Mr. Bayer has succeeded in cementing his position as a friend of the Prime Minister, it could only have happened because the Prime Minster wished it to be so. Ergo, no matter what Mr. Bayer writes, so the FIDESZ PR machinery would have the country believe, he is fine because he cannot possibly mean anything that is contrary to the declared interests of FIDESZ as embodied by its leader, Mr. Viktor Orban.

Clearly, without international reactions, the FIDESZ public relations machinery has been successful in containing the damage and even tried to use the reaction against Bayer to its advantage. No copy/paste press release has been issued so far as no such need has arisen.

Not even after Neelie Kroes, the Vice President of the European Commission, entered the picture on Monday, has there been a change. Ms. Kroes tweeted the following message on Monday: “I am horrified by the words of Zsolt Bayer about Hungary’s Roma community (“animals” etc). This is not what I call freedom of speech / media. if someone calls Roma community “not human” – I’m talking about Zsolt Bayer of #Fidesz in #Hungary – that is sign they’re not a worthy ally.” Ms. Kroes’ source for this story was none other than my own article that was run by The Budapest Times. Sadly, if anything, her tweet–widely disseminated by the Hungarian press–has only served to make the supporters of FIDESZ harden their defenses and allege that “the left” was again out to “attack Hungary.”

It is incredible that no translation of Bayer’s original article has been made by any responsible Hungarian organization with an intent to publicize Bayer’s initial call to action against “a significant part” of Hungarian gypsies. Yet, where there is a lack of organizational prowess, individuals must step up and find various ways to shout against injustice. And while many have done so within Hungary itself, the issue has once again been politicized, making it less likely that those on the right with a clear moral compass will speak up now against the type of public discourse Bayer’s article represents.

My hope, however remote, is that more and more people, even amongst the ranks of the FIDESZ party, realize that the kind of speech Mr. Bayer employed in his incendiary article is simply unacceptable in a civil society and express their distaste for a man like Bayer calling himself a journalist, no matter how influential he is in the FIDESZ party.

At this point, it would be unrealistic to expect prime minister Orban to say anything to the international community about his views on Bayer’s “solutions”  to the “Gypsy Question.” Clearly, it is superfluous for him to do so. But a cursory look at the incredibly organized rallying around Bayer as best demonstrated by the reversal of the vice prime minister’s position on him reveals what Mr. Orban really thinks.

As the prime minister has himself said (with my embellishment): what matters is not what he says (or does not say) but rather how he acts (and makes others within his vast sphere of influence act).

To Be or Not to Be a Gypsy in Hungary: Zsolt Bayer Says NO!

In the past few years while visiting my native city of Budapest and reading the news, I have often thought that public discourse in Hungary has hit rock bottom.

I was wrong.

The new rock bottom arrived this Saturday with the vitriolic publication of an opinion piece by Zsolt Bayer, the holder of the number 5 FIDESZ party card, famously a close friend of the Hungarian Prime Minister. In this piece, Bayer, who has been criticized in the past as anti-Semitic, deciding that it was not enough to be reviled for being anti-Semitic, wished to prove that he was also anti-gypsy. No, he does not believe that there are no “good” gypsies in Hungary. He even commends the winner of the popular TV show called X-Factor, Gergő Oláh, as a role model, using the fact that the viewers voted him as the winner to demonstrate to “those bastards calling Hungarians racists,” as he puts it, that they were wrong.

But then, the despicable attempted murder of a group of athletes on New Years Eve, allegedly by a group of gypsies prompted this Oracle of the ruling Fidesz party, this populist public prophet, to vomit onto paper a tirade against gypsies that even the Nazi propaganda newspaper Der Stürmer would have envied.

The Associated Press’s account of the fierce reaction from many public figures in Hungary against the views expressed in this article is correct. The text quoted, though, does not reflect the severity of the language used in the article. So, as a public service to English speakers, I am reproducing the relevant paragraph in English below.

Bayer writes, “The facts are as follows: a significant part of Gypsies is not fit for coexistence and is not fit to live amongst people. This part of the Gypsy world are animals and behave as animals. Seeing anyone, they get into a state of rut [become sexually excited and want to act on in] whenever and wherever they want. When they meet resistance, they commit murder. They relieve themselves whenever and wherever the urge overtakes them. If they feel that they are prevented from doing so, they commit murder. They want to get whatever they see. If they don’t get it, they take it and the commit murder. This part of gypsy society is incapable of any type of human communication. Mostly inarticulate sounds stream forth from their animalistic skulls, and the only thing they understand from this miserable world is violence. Meanwhile, this half of the gypsy world that has turned into animals does use Western “inventions.” Let everyone look at the way they pose on Facebook, with weapons in their hands, with gold necks around their necks weighing half a kilogram, with an expression on their muzzle that says “I can do you in whenever I want, you stupid Hungarian peasant.” Just look at the rat who stabbed Gergő Sávoly and his friends on Facebook, and you’ll see that all three are potential murderers.  Eo ipso murderer. No tolerance and understanding is needed but revenge. And it is here that the Western world’s idiotic politically correct segment commits the biggest sin. Out of mere self-interest and calculations, it pretends that these animals, for whatever reason, can be tolerated, understood, or even respected, as if they were owed any type of esteem or human dignity….”

The article concludes with the chilling words as Bayer rephrases a popular contemporary poet’s work (it must be noted that Virag Erdos, the poet, has immediately protested and threatened to sue the newspaper in which the article was published): “Let all Gergő Oláhs be and live with us happily. And the animals should not be. At all. This is what needs to be done: immediately and by any means.”

What? Can it be that a leading publication close to the Hungarian government, Magyar Hirlap, would publish an opinion piece by a close friend of the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, advocating the annihilation of a “significant part” of Hungary’s gypsy population? For make no mistake: this is what Bayer’s article advocates. Can it be that two days after this piece has whipped up a tempest (though it may only be in a teacup), the ruling FIDESZ Party has not yet condemned this view in the strongest possible terms but rather suggested that there is freedom of speech in Hungary (as the FIDESZ spokesmen, Gabriella Semleczi has stated on Tuesday)? Can it be that the strongman of Hungary, Viktor Orban, is silent on this matter?

Yes, it can. Judging from past events, Hungary’s government is readying the copy/paste function in the public relations office, making cosmetic changes to the standard press release that will run as follows: “Hungary’s government condemns in the strongest possible terms all hate speech and is committed to defending all of its citizens, including its Roma minority.”

Certainly, freedom of expression should be preserved. But even more, the reaction to any suggestion of mass extermination in country with a shameful history of mass exterminations in 1944 should be especially fierce and unequivocal.

And the reaction should have come straight from the mouth of Viktor Orban for it to have been credible.

Now it is too late, once again.

But it is not too late for Hungary’s citizens to demonstrate that it is a country of decent human beings who abhor heartless opinion columnists arguing for mass extermination no less than heartless criminal acts.