We blame things on the east, but I’ll blame waking early and falling asleep at weird times on the west. I walked far and for a long time Friday and probably saw most of the squares and monuments … Budapest may be many people scattered over a large distance but the historic thingys are corralled for the most part. Many of the public monuments and squares are enormous, so Soviet-like in scale and size yet built long before the Soviet style or the Nazi Nuremberg grotesquery came into being.
None of that is very moving. The only public monument I’ve seen that is moving is one created by the public, not for the public. It is a number of very personal objects: letters, photos, memos, some handwritten, some typewritten, some computer printed, suitcases, purses, socks, flowers, jewelry – anything someone could find that told a story of a loved one – and given the number of years that have gone by, very likely a loved one who was never known – who was sent to a concentration camp, was shot in the street or beside the Danube, or was somehow taken from them by a government that collaborated with the Nazis. The reason for this display is that the government of Victor Orban, the government currently in power, created one of the other kind of public monuments – not huge in scale but huge in its black and concrete ugliness, the blackness of the sculptures very reminiscent of that Nazi blackness found in so many of its symbols. Simon Zoltan wrote
The monument plans to depict Hungary, a Nazi ally in World War II, as Archangel Gabriel being swooped down upon by the imperial eagle, representing Germany.
Orban defended the monument that marks the Nazi’s invasion of Hungary, saying the scene represents the nation’s long loss of independence to first the Nazis, then the Soviets. However, as Zoltan notes
Hungarian lawmakers in 1920 approved what is widely considered as the first anti-Semitic law passed in Europe after World War I.
I think the strong negative reaction is due to the secrecy surrounding the monument’s creation – there was no public input. The text chiseled into the stone reads “In memory of the victims” in several languages.
Its always fun for me to see how people do the same things differently. America has American Idol and The Voice and other countries have similar TV shows; there’s the fascination with smart and smart-alecky kids dating back to television’s early days, now brought back to life by Steve Harvey’s show. Hungarian television has a show incorporating both styles (a contest judged by a panel and kids contesting for a prize); however, here the panel consists of an opera singer, a symphony conductor, a solo violinist with a symphony and a composer. The kids trotted out on stage are, if not already a virtuoso, nearly so, and all seemed virtuous.
Sunday is Mother’s Day here. It is also Labor Day. The outdoor pools and baths opened. There was an air show with stunt planes flying under the Danube’s bridges and vintage Malev (Hungary’s former national airline) propeller-driven planes in the sky.. The sun was out. Tourists thronged the streets. In my limited travels I’ve never seen so many flags flown, except in the United States. I’ve also never seen so many pansies: their scent fills the air.