Thursday, March 15, 2007

Ejjen a Magyar

One hundred fifty-nine years ago, a bunch of Hungarians stood up against the greatest empire in Europe because they believed that they had a right to govern themselves. They lost that cause, but the ideas of freedom live on-

(Image credit: AP)

You see, all is not well in the world of Hungarian politics. Last fall, a leaked tape revealed that Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany admitted to lying "day, noon, and night" about the state of the Hungarian economy to win the election last spring. This led to riots and protests all over the country that numbered in the hundreds of thousands, a pretty big deal if your population numbers around ten million, and were the biggest public protests since the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 fifty years prior. For days I was worried about people there: my cousin is a police officer in Budapest, and I have several relatives and friends who go to school there. It's really not fun to turn on CNN and see a clash between students and police when there's a chance you might recognize someone.

But anyway, Gyurcsany had the balls to stay in office, and things quieted down a bit. But today is National Day in Hungary, sort of the 4th of July equivalent in the States, so everyone took to the streets again. According to reports, 200,000 people showed up to protest the government in Budapest today, but the peaceful protests turned sour and police used water cannons and tear gas to repel up to 1,000 protesters. It's hard to imagine such things going on in the very same streets I walked in as recently as last summer, particularly from this corner of the world.

Ejjen a magyar szabadsag, ejjen a haza.