Seen from the Corner of Fremont and Cedar

FreCedSeen from the corner of Fremont and Cedar political events in Hungary seem so distant, yet so much clearer than they do from inside the country.

Especially when one has so much time and emotion invested in the non-stop series of conflicts that embody the Orbán era, the significance of every episode in this sad pageant of futile defiance is magnified to such preposterous lengths that all context is lost when viewed from up close.

The landslide Fidesz victory in local elections, the U.S. travel ban scandal, the mass demonstrations against Orbán’s proposed Internet tax: seen from Budapest, vastly important, self-contained events; seen from a small town in the Midwestern United States, constituent elements of a greater whole, mile posts along Hungary’s pathway from the liberal-democratic West toward the authoritarian East.

The heightened sense of proportion that comes with distancing oneself from the object under consideration. Distance needed in order to contribute constructively to an understanding and—perhaps even—resolution of the problem.

But it is so exciting to be there in person. And this may be the central meaning of it all: Hungarians are just too high-strung and bored with continuity to bear the tedium of stability.

As Imre Kertész, the Jewish Hungarian author of the Nobel Prize-winning novel Fatelessness, said with regard to the upheaval stemming from the Orbán government’s conflict with Europe: “Nothing new. No problem. And no solution because there is no problem” (see Fateful Endings).

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