Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pink and gray, red and black --- part two

To continue with Michener's book; he is describing the refugees who left Hungary in October and November, 1956.

"Here is a better analogy. Suppose things got so bad in America that the following types of people felt they had to abandon a rotten system: The University of Southern California en masse, The Notre Dame football team and the Yankees, Benny Goodman's orchestra, the authors of the ten current best sellers, the actors in six Broadway plays, Henry Ford III and Walter Reuther, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, all the recent graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the five hundred top practical mechanics of the General Motors assembly line, the secretaries of the eighteen toughest unions, and a million young married couples with their children.

"Now suppose that the average age of these Americans was twenty-three, that they were the kinds of people who might normally be expected to have brilliant futures before them, that there were no aged or sick or mentally defeated among them . . . only the best. Would you not say that something terribly wrong had overtaken America if such people rejected it? That's what happened in Hungary"

"How arrogantly they came, with honor stamped on their faces. Once I met forty-four of the most handsome, brave and cocky young people I have ever seen. They had come from all parts of Hungary. No one had led them, no one had driven them, but from every type of home they had converged on the bridge at Andau, and as they passed me on their way to exile I counted the things they had brought with them: these forty-four refugees had among them two girls' handbags, two brief cases and one paper bag of bread. That was how they left, in the clothes they wore.
"I asked one of them, 'Why did you bring so little?'
"And he said, 'Whatever the communists let us have, they can keep.'
"They came only with their honor."

"And there was one freedom fighter with no legs, and no wooden legs to replace them. This man caught a bus ride from Budapest to a point about fifteen miles from the border. These last fifteen miles he covered by pulling himself along on his hands. When we got to him the stumps of his legs were almost rubbed raw, and his hands were cut and bleeding from the frozen soil. Nobody said much about this man, for there was nothing that words could add."

"The aspect of the revolution which surprised me most was the profound longing with which the Hungarian intellectuals wanted to return to the community of European nations. Many spoke of this with fervor. 'Of all that Russia robbed us of,' my chance interpreter said that night, 'the most precious was communication with our fellow citizens of Europe.'"

[I'll have more to say about intellectuals in my next serious post, about The Bell Curve.]

All in all, says Michener, about two hundred thousand Hungarians left their homeland simply because -- in general -- they simply couldn't stand it any longer. "For the most part, however," says Michener, "each human being who walked out of Hungary in late 1956 represented a personal tragedy, as well as a momentary triumph. He was walking into freedom, true, but he was also walking away from his homeland and its future, and that it a pathetic thing for a patriot to have to do."

If you want to know the things these people walked away from, read the book.

If we want to help prevent the same thing happening here (and I believe it is beginning to happen, don't believe it can't), the first thing we can do is not trust anyone who talks or acts against God, marriage, or the family unit. An old Ukrainian lady told me those were the three main targets of Soviet Communism.

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