Author: Péter Pető
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Opinion Piece: The March of Refugee Pride
I was tearful.
I’m sure that now you are thinking that I’m overreacting to get a chick or that I was in a kitsch party on Friday night and now that’s how I’m leaving it, but the situation is worse than both of the above: that’s what had really happened.
Now, the fact that it happens during work is almost as rare as a radical vegetarian winning a gold medal on the World Championship of Hot Dog Gobbling. Hardened on demonstrations, fights, interviews with homeless people, accidents, family dramas, journalists learn to bear. Using their rationality, they can put up with the fact that they are marching on a motorway, alongside more than a thousand people who want to get to another country seeking hope there.
They can put up with seeing the march of people with one leg, little babies and the elderly on the [Hungarian – transl.] motorway M1, carrying their bags on their back, fleeing for their life to have another one. They can put up with a child crying after marching 20 km [approx. 12.5 miles – transl.], saying that s/he can’t go any further, that s/he is just too tired, while the mother won’t ease up and scolds, she says that they must go on, because they have no other choice.
They can put up with seeing a compatriot slow down on the other side of the motorway only to shout at the life-beaten people who are suffering yet again, namely this: ’Fuck you!’.
They can put up with standing in one spot watching the mass pass, to see Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis and who knows what other nationalities march by steadily.
They can put up with seeing Hungarian volunteers and civilians bring water, bananas, grapes and blankets to the marching people to help them in their misery. Those at the front of the march say “No! No!” because the strong young men won’t accept the packages. Instead, they wave backwards and say “Baby, Baby!” Thanks to them, the families and small ones who are falling behind get the most delicious bits.
But still, there are things even a journalists can’t put up with. This time, for example, seeing what a boy about 6 years old did. This little boy was among those volunteering at the rest stop and was holding a piece of fruit in his hands. He stepped in front of a child – Syrian, Afghan, Iraqi or Pakistani – to hand him a banana, a grape or a date.
This meeting of two kids in this apocalyptic moment – this was too much to bear.
Just as one finds it hard to bear that many great thinkers intentionally conflate two separate disputes: a dispute at the macro and a dispute at the micro level. In the former, anything can happen. Anyone can say that they hate foreigners, anyone can pre-judge and say that they will not be able to integrate, and that projects of integration are only as useful as mixing beer anyway, furthermore that they will take away our money, our jobs, and even the Hortobagy and Lake Balaton will only be left behind by a mere oversight. But this has nothing to do with what is taking place on the streets of Budapest or, at this point, on the roads of Hungary.
The dispute at the micro level has a lot more to do with that. Because that dispute is about humanity. About the fact that these people are already here among us, without anything of their own, and it is impossible not to give food and drink to those who hunger and thirst. This has nothing to do with the sham proposal about quotes, to the ideas of Viktor Bigmouth or to the institutions of the European Union which remain impotent despite their steady diet of political viagra. And this has nothing to do with Barack Obama, nor with Angela “Once I Will Try Saying Something I Agree With” Merkel or with the UN. This has nothing to do with any of that. This bears only on human dignity.
The kind of human dignity of which I have never seen a greater concentration than this Friday, during this march of refugee pride. After all, the procession of those who left the Keleti railway station served as an interactive symbol of an unflinching quest for freedom and a general desire to live. It demonstrated that there are people who are not afraid to be.
For example, a Syrian father who was playing with his one-year-old daughter on the way. He must have walked at least 20 km by this time. He appeared exhausted, but while walking he kept lifting his tiny daughter up to the sky, above his head on the M-1 motorway, on the shoulder of the road, as if we were in a dadaist installation, just to make sure that the child was entertained. There, in the same country in which public opinion is brought to hysterical heights and where the state abandons the less fortunate without support.
It is true that the little girl was unaware of any of this. She just kept on laughing.
It is entirely possible that she was laughing at the destitution of our indifference.