I’ve been here in Hungary for a month now. I’ve had conversations with government officials and academics, but also with ordinary Hungarians — baristas, cab drivers, cleaning ladies, housewives, and so forth. (I had an interview on Friday with a smart, articulate member of the opposition, which I’ll be writing about later today.) Based on my conversations, it is hard to overstate the fear and disgust Hungarians have of the most aggressive currents of American culture. Even the liberal opposition figure I talked to on Friday said he is entirely in favor of gay marriage and gay adoption rights, but he finds baffling transgenderism and the multiplicity of sexual identities that is now central to American culture.
The line I’ve been hearing from “ordinary people” — cabbies, baristas, the cleaning ladies, et al. — is that they are weary of corruption within the ruling party, Fidesz, but they prefer it without question to the Hungarian left, which they believe will open the door to the moral sickness of gender ideology, and destroy Hungary’s ability to govern its own sovereignty, including (indeed, especially) in matters related to gender ideology. One academic I talked to the other day, a man who spent most of his career teaching in US and Western European universities, told me that he welcomes Fudan University from China coming here, because he has confidence that the Chinese will not put up with the ideological diseases destroying Western academic life. And, he said, the Chinese will let Hungary be Hungary.
Is he wrong? Maybe. But that is what I’m hearing over and over and over here. Obviously there is a serious opposition to the Fidesz government — again, I’m going to post later today on my interview with a prominent anti-Orban figure — but as an American, it has been startling to me to find so many people here who affirm their government’s turn away from the West, and towards China and Russia. Let me emphasize that I am not talking about government officials or those who are part of the Fidesz party apparatus. I talked the other day to a young woman who told me she is a student, who said that she supports the Orban government because it matters a lot to her to keep immigrants out, and to make sure transgender ideology doesn’t take hold here. It would be a mistake to say that this is a Christian thing. Unlike Poland, Hungary is not very religious. This young woman told me that she lives with her partner, and ultimately wants to marry and start a family. She sees the moral breakdown in the West over gender as a direct threat to the family she wants to start.
She’s right — and she is far from the only one. I take a lot of taxis here (they’re cheap), and do the Tom Friedman thing of asking the cab drivers what they think. I’ve had a couple who are strong Fidesz supporters, but most of them say they’re tired of what they regard as corruption (e.g., sweetheart deals on government contracts for the party’s supporters). Every single one of them so far, in a month of asking, have said that they intend to vote Fidesz because they do not trust the opposition to resist the EU’s pressure on immigration and cultural issues like gender ideology. They don’t have any fear of China.
But what about freedom? I ask. China is a totalitarian state.
They don’t see China forcing them to accept migrants or affirm transgenderism. Besides, they say, American “freedom” looks like a curse.
This is the kind of thing that disgusts and frightens Hungarians:
This is a crocheted “packer” for little girls who say they are boys, and who want to have a bulge in their crotch. Notice how small they are. “Bitty Bug” is the cutesy-poo name these people have given to a simulated penis and testicles, meant for small children to wear.
This is what America has become. I can hear now, the liberals who read this accuse me of “nutpicking” — that is, identifying extreme examples of some phenomenon and using it to smear the whole. Sorry, I’m now immune to this criticism. Over and over and over we hear the same gaslighting from the Left … and the Overton Window of trans insanity keeps moving. Two years ago, I did a post highlighting a YouTube commentary (since removed) by a little girl talking about the joys of silicone fake penises to put into her underwear. Naturally I got accused by readers of nutpicking. But one reader said:
Those who are saying that this is alarmist don’t have children in urban public schools. I have a tween there right now, and the peer pressure to be trans is significant. We keep hearing that this affects a “very small percentage” of the people in society. How is it, then, that in one class, it’s a fourth of the kids claiming to be trans, in another it’s a third of the kids claiming to be trans, etc.? And more besides claiming to be “gender-fluid” or similar? How is half of a classroom of pre-teens a “small” phenomenon?
It looks, as far as I’m concerned, like peer-pressure of the sort that parents have always warned against. Sex. Drugs. Crime. etc. Only now it’s gender identity, and the system, rather than fighting the peer pressure, is encouraging it, and proposing biological interventions besides.
The number of parents who are buying in is also alarming. Kids are happily being told by their parents that gender is a construct, it’s naturally fluid, you’re free to find your true self, it’s *not* uncommon, doctors can help, etc. And if you’re the parent who tells your kid that this isn’t true? Your kids very quickly come to understand that *you’re* the bigot. They’re out there swimming in that ocean. That also doesn’t play well in the peer pressure arena—”I’ve got the bigot parent who doesn’t accept people for who they are, *le sigh*”
This is not a small phenomenon. And all signs say it’s going to get larger. What is the threshold at which people finally start to worry about this? When 10% of kids are on hormones? 20% of kids? 30%?
I argued with a fellow parent this week who had no problem with those numbers. It’s just helping people to “be who they are,” like hairstyles and fashion choices. They had no problem with it whatsoever. And what can you do? Forbid your kids from socializing with certain other kids? If you’re a parent, you know it’s not so easy to sever social ties on your childrens’ behalves, much less multiple social ties, much less if the kids in question are the “coolest” (i.e. the trans) ones that are the most flamboyant and popular.
How can anyone with a straight face tell Hungarians that there is nothing to worry about, that either this won’t come to them, or when it does, it will be liberating? Don’t forget:
The basic human right to buy and sell crocheted fake penises and scrotums for your little girl “bitty-bug” to put in her pants to pretend to be a boy. This is what our culture has to offer to the Hungarians, and to the world. My interlocutor on Friday said that he’s convinced Hungarian PM Viktor Orban believes the West is finished, and the future belongs to societies like China’s. As an American, I hope that is not true. But the evidence is not encouraging.
UPDATE: Reader James C. comments:
Well. I was in Genoa on Saturday, and I was shocked to see huge swathes of the old town overrun with illegal immigrants, among them many Nigerian, Senegalese, Gambian, Tunisian and other African drug dealers, as well as pimps and prostitutes. Not a pretty sight, and—judging from the daily stories in the newspapers—not a safe one.
I imagined myself as a Genoese resident of the old city, whose family has lived there for many generations. I imagined what it must be like to watch your family neighborhood change horrifyingly beyond all recognition.
Today in Genoa, politicians are holding a ceremony unveiling public benches that have been painted in rainbow colors to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia.
And I can imagine that Genoese resident thinking, “If only we had Orban.”