Before I left Hungary for the USA, my image about America resembled a broken painting, soaked in sewage water, torn in pieces and illuminated by a dimming candle. Breast-fed by the Marxist ideology, I thought this country was a world of unscrupulous capitalists and oppressed working class, president murderers, Negro-hunting KKK members and blackmailing gangsters. The bright side of the picture had faded away in the atmosphere of cold war. Since I have been living here, my opinion has changed a lot. I learned that everything is true, especially its opposite.
The United States has provided me a habitat where I can live a decent life. My new homeland did not promise me happiness but the right to pursue happiness and she kept her word. You cannot really appreciate the freedom of speech, if you have never experienced its lack. Because of these gifts, I owe and love America. It is easy to use to the good things and notice the bad ones. I admire the Constitution and I can throw up seeing some legal practices abusing its spirit. My articles seem only to criticize the system and some typical American phenomena. I make jokes on concepts most people here consider sacred. I do stand up against imperfections but my intentions are far from standing up against the country. The times of the Vietnam war come to my mind. Public opinion judged the anti-war flag burners insolent. I proudly admit the similarity between the flag burners and me. These youngsters saw that America was on a wrong track and they wanted to shake up the nation. Disregarding their manners, they had much more responsibility than some politicians, who should have spoken up using their legitimate means. Demagogue conformism in power and scandalous outlaws collided. As always, the Establishment formally won but technically lost the battle of the sixties. Recently President Bush could not carry out his plan to initiate a new amendment that would ban flag burners. These days there is a new attempt against flag burning. If it succeeds, pride may win but people will lose. We give up a chunk of our factual freedom for a symbol of freedom.
Today’s memory of yesterday’s hippy generation has been intentionally falsified. As usual, small twists could totally change the view. I can imagine a typical dialog of the sixties between a mainstream politician and a flower child, who was lying in the grass of a public park. The conversation hardly started, the parties seemed to speak in different languages.
“Hello, my friend. May I ask you, what would you paint on your flag?” The well-dressed gentleman approaches the long-hair teenager of indefinable gender.
“Sir, we don’t have flags.”
“I mean, what do you believe in?”
“What do you mean, what do we believe in?”
“I mean, what do you want primarily in the future?”
“We want in the future what we want today.”
“So, what do you want today?”
“All we need is love.”
“And how about drugs?”
“Well, we like to get high while we make love.”
“And how about wild parties?”
“I personally like rock and roll.”
After the conversation the hippy stayed in the park. He had a lot to do nothing. The politician went home, took his notes, drew a flag full of flowers and wrote on it: ALL WE NEED IS LOVE! He crossed and rewrote the slogan: LOVE, DRUGS, ROCK ‘N ROLL. “Still too attractive. I hate them using the word ‘love’. Love is ours, family-oriented, believing Christian people’s, not these yoyos’.” He finally wrote down: SEX, DRUGS, VIOLENCE.
“See, what they have got on their flag? How sickening these kids are!” The politician kicked back contently.
I do not really like movements. I am neither an -ist, nor an -ian. Neither a -crat, nor an -ican. (Please, do not label me: I am not a nihilist, either.) Vivid streams of ideas trickle down, leave hard deposits and all that remains is sediment. Movements and ideologies do not parent ideas, they use them and abuse them. An idea dies when it is painted on a flag as a slogan. That is why I do not like flags, banners and campaigns, either. However, I am not against the people flags represent. Smart activists do not name themselves straight; whom and what they are against. Everybody is ‘for’ something. The anti-abortion movement calls itself ‘pro-life’ and their opposition is ‘pro-choice’. In my opinion, euphemisms lie. For example, polls show that a significant portion of ‘pro-life’ people agrees to reinstitute the death penalty. Fishermen’s mentality: Throw back the small, kill the big.
Let me tell a story, how reasonable thoughts turn into stupid ideology. Once upon a time there was a kingdom, where alcoholism created some problems. The ministers proposed that the king ban all spirits. Drinking habits did not really diminish, but the gangsters profiting from the black market became stronger than ever. At the end the legislature realized that making alcohol legal again would result in a more normal situation, with a controlled and taxed market for the benefit of the whole society.
Today other substances endanger the health of the USA. Anti-drug activists (pardon me: ‘pro-abstinence’ activists) try to purify the world and they do not realize that their movements tend to develop the same troubles alcohol prohibition did. They do not even let the less hazardous marijuana be legalized, making those innocent people guilty, who only want to smoke a joint in bed sometimes. Do not get me wrong. I am not for drugs in general. I know their threat. Not too long time ago I had been assaulted by a heavy drug user. I do not wish that anybody feel what I felt then with his knife against my neck. Should I hate my attacker? Would the incident have happened if he could have accessed his dose legally, controlled and supervised? Or should I rather hate those well-respected sober fellow-citizens, who left me coping alone with that desperate guy at the always-crowded corner of Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea in L. A.? Because of this holdup, should I outlaw those, who do not wish to go out to the street under the influence, just wanting a little relaxation and joy at home? If this is forbidden, why don’t we penalize diabetes and prohibit insulin? Fatal car accidents happen because of its incorrect dosage, too! Tobacco smokers can also cause accidents just because embers falling on their laps may distract their attention from driving. The problem is not with marijuana, but with those people who smoke and drive, regardless of what they smoke. Mild narcotic substances are closer to tobacco than to crack cocaine. However, considering real similarities and differences would require some thinking, not just slogans. Also, the tobacco industry is much more powerful than those easy-going hobos. It is simpler to target the pot smokers and group them with heavy drug users. Scientifically false, but politically correct.