Since I moved permanently to Budapest last fall, American friends often ask me, ‘What’s so great about Hungary?’ You can easily predict most of the things I say, including the fact that Budapest is becoming an intellectual center of the next conservatism. Yet without fail, one answer I give always startles them: ‘Because it’s still normal.’
They are still under the impression, thanks to the US media, that Hungary must be some sort of semi-fascist hell state. I tell them, ‘It’s like America felt around 1995.’
That is, before the US lost its mind,
not only with wokeness (which emerged in a big way around 2012), but with most of the conditions that led to the fragmentation and disintegration from which America now suffers.
The imperialistic hubris that characterized the George W. Bush administration, which genuinely thought it could apply sufficient military force and cash to turn Iraqis and Afghans into Western-style liberal democrats, was present, but had not yet been fully unleashed onto the world. Both Republicans and Democrats still suffer from this mindset, but with the cultural left now running all major American institutions, this ideology has been weaponized at the cultural level against any and all countries (like Hungary) that resist the West’s radicalism.
Hungary is like 1995 America in the sense that most Hungarians, as far as I can tell, though not especially religious, still hold to certain fundamental norms that have been challenged and even overturned elsewhere in the West. These are norms that made civilized life possible.
One of those norms is that children belong to parents, not to the state. Another of those norms is that biological males are men, and biological females are women. And still another of those norms is that children should be protected from grotesque medical and psychological experimentation by sexual radicals.
What just happened in New York state is unthinkable in Hungary.
A father there lost a legal battle with his ex-wife, to prevent his eight-year-old son from being medically transitioned to femaleness. Dennis Hannon says that his ex-wife, who had primary custody of their son, began dressing the boy like a girl when he was aged three—and hid this fact from the father when he would pick the lad up for his custodial weekends.
When Hannon discovered the lies, the boy’s mother and his doctors were already preparing to start the boy on a course of hormones to block male puberty. Doctors called this ‘essential medical treatment.’ After spending all his retirement savings on lawyers, trying to save his son, Hannon is out of money, and out of options. The boy is doomed.
‘I was looked at as just a conservative who didn’t want to accept my son’s gender,’ Hannon told the Daily Mail newspaper. ‘I could very easily be passed off as a bigot for wanting to simply question why and understand how they came to this conclusion or how they could. It was totally weaponized against me.’
This happens not only in liberal states like New York, but even in conservative states. Several years ago, a Texas father, Jeff Younger, lost his court fight to prevent his ex-wife from transitioning and chemically castrating their son James, now aged nine. More recently, the Republican governor of Montana, Greg Gianforte, defended the state’s role in removing a suicidal teenager from her home and sending her to a neighboring state to transition to male.
Her parents bitterly objected, but the governor said that Montana’s child protection agency had followed the law in this case. Note well that Montana has a law—now temporarily suspended by a court—that forbids gender-transition for minors.
The point is this: even in culturally and politically conservative states, American families are not safe from those who would use the power of the state to sexually mutilate children.
It is a horror that would have been inconceivable in 1995 America.
But now it’s normal.
Can you imagine such a grotesque thing coming to Hungary? Probably not—and that is because this country is for now governed by people who refuse to allow this kind of monstrosity to exist. But Hungarians need to start imagining such things, if only to learn how to protect themselves from it, politically and otherwise.
It is impossible to overstate how relentless the pro-trans propaganda is in American society, at every level—especially targeting children. In the summer of 2021, when I was in Hungary doing my first fellowship at the Danube Institute, I had a formal meeting with Katalin Novák, then the family minister. When she and her team came into the room, she apologized for being late, and said that Prime Minister Orbán had just informed the cabinet that Fidesz would soon introduce a bill into parliament that would outlaw LGBT information directed at children and minors.
‘Oh,’ I said, ‘have you heard about the ‘Blues Clues’ Pride parade?’
They had not. I explained that ‘Blues Clues’ is a very popular TV show for little children. My kids grew up watching it in the pre-woke era. Since then, the show has become a vector for propaganda. During Pride Month that summer, ‘Blues Clues’ broadcast a cartoon in which an animated drag queen taught children a marching song for the Pride parade. The message of the song is that there is no such thing as a normal family—that families come in all forms. The cheerful tune instructs child viewers that even asexual, bisexual, and pansexual mommies and daddies are normal and a cause for celebration.
As I told this minister of state and her team about the children’s video, I could see the shock on their faces. ‘This proposed law,’ I said, ‘would protect Hungarian children and families from this kind of insanity. I’m so glad you are pushing for it.’
As we know, Hungary suffered a lot of vicious criticism from Western leaders over this law. Mark Rutte, then the prime minister of the Netherlands, called for Hungary to be expelled from the European Union over the law. But Hungary held firm. Why? Because Hungarians have not lost their minds. Because in some sense, it is still 1995 in Hungary.
In this country, the left accused the Orbán government of being alarmist and bigoted on LGBT questions, and of holding back progress. But in America, we have seen that almost every warning that social conservatives gave about where the LGBT movement was going—in particular, that it would target kids—was mocked at the time, but eventually came true.
‘Alarmist’ is what the left calls you when it wants you to drop your guard.
It is no doubt true that the Orbán government stands in the way of LGBT ‘progress.’ But ordinary Hungarians should look at what has happened in America, a country where the state can steal children from their parents for the sake of sexual transition, to understand that stopping the progress of a train that is hurtling off a cliff is an act of basic sanity.
We Americans used to know this a generation ago. We were normal, in the way Hungary is today. But for us, 1995 is another country.