When the dream becomes a nightmare

Across the pond, Americans are casting their votes. Who will be the next President of the United States of America is a question still to be answered. For many, it’s a matter choosing the lesser of two evils. For others, their vote will be used not to favour one candidate but to ensure that the other doesn’t win.

For months now, social and mainstream media have been deluged with so-called facts and figures, chosen to paint a specific picture, depending on a given perspective. Opinions have been aired, insults have been traded. Personal values have been lost in the tirade of abuse that has ruled. Many, espousing to be Christians, have shown a marked lack of respect in their treatment of those who don’t share their opinions. Judgements have been made, accusations have been levelled. The ugly side of popular opinion has come to the fore.

Very little has been said by way of policy or plans for the future. Very little has been said about tomorrow, or next year. Very little of any value has come out the debates, those on TV and those that have taken place in homes and pubs around the world. It seems to me that the concerned world has been too busy venting and ridiculing to be constructive.

Tomorrow, those of us on this side of the pond will wake up to news of who gets to sit in the Oval office. Life will continue, regardless of the choice and whatever fears we have for the future under a given command, will need to be checked and dealt with.

But in the aftermath, I wonder how we will all cope with the diminished levels of trust that will surface. How will we deal with friends, family, and colleagues who are adamant supporters of someone we could never countenance to hold such an office. Will we ever truly trust their opinions in the future? Will something fundamental have torn in the fabric of our relationships, something that might take years to mend? Will the next four years be about both sides either  congratulating themselves on a good choice or bemoaning the choice of others – a massive tide of ‘See, I told you!’?

I don’t know.

I’ve had my arguments and my disagreements about major controversies. I’ve had my share of pitying looks when I expressed an opinion that went against the popular one. But those issues were more abstract. They were about policies, about history, about peoples, and not about a choice between two individuals, who together have managed to divide a nation and a large part of the greater world.

I wonder if we will recover. Or if this is just the first wedge in a divide that will grow as the next few years unfold.

In the months after Brexit, it’s clear that business as usual is not a given. If anything, the nastiness is getting worse. The results of the referendum, the vote, didn’t end anything, but rather started a downward spiral into a consuming morass of hatred.

electionPerhaps this evening is the last page in a chapter of world history. And tomorrow, the real horror story begins. Not because of the result and who is elected, but because our inability to handle the consequences.




2015 Grateful 39

We live in a divided world. Catholic, Protestant. Black, White. Conservative, Democrat. Jew, Muslim. National, Non-national. Native speaker, Non-native speaker. Roma, Non-Roma. Male, Female. Child, Adult.

In many instances the divisions don’t matter. But in many others, they do. They’re the cause of wars, of racially motivated attacks, of hatred. And because they are so mainstreamed, so part of our society, they force us to take sides. Not having an opinion, or proclaiming not to know enough to be entitled to an opinion, doesn’t wash. If you’re not anti-Israel, you’re pro-Palestine. If you’re not for me, you’re against me. And it sucks. Particularly when this divisiveness is felt at community level.

I’ve never been a great lover of football, preferring the rigors of rugby to the more sedate style of soccer. But in recent years I’ve come to appreciate the game at club level and to understand its importance for a community.

(c) Zoran Barovic

(c) Zoran Barovic

Eight months ago, at the start of the Hungarian soccer season, about 400 fans turned out to see second division Békéscsaba play their opening game. I use the word ‘fan’ rather loosely here, primarily to describe those who paid into the grounds to watch the match, not necessarily those who lent their support to the players.

It’s not unusual in Hungarian football for fans to castigate the ref (I can understand that – I could have swung for yer man who reffed the game on Tuesday night, and the four yellow cards he didn’t dole out in the first half!) and the coach (perhaps on occasion) and the players (no excuse in my mind – everyone can have a bad day). And it can get personal to the point of being embarrassing to listen to. Supporting a team seems to mean something completely different in Hungary than it does at home.

(c) Zoran Barovic

(c) Zoran Barovic

match 4But eight months later, with just nine games left to go in the season, nearly 5000 fans made their way to the stadium in Békéscsaba to see their boys unseat the top team. The Ultras, the diehards who sing and wave their flags under the conductorship of the man with the fog-horn, were in fine voice. The fans – from toddlers to teens, from twenty-year-olds to pensioners – embodied every stratum of society. Entire families turned out, three, four, five generations. It was nothing short of amazing.

The players were stupefied. For them, it had to have been like playing to a home crowd at Wembley. Gone was the castigation, the cutting remarks, the nastiness, and in its place, encouragement, support, and congratulations. Even when players missed their mark or dropped a pass, positivity ruled. The pride the spectators took in their players was the stuff that goosebumps are made of.

The lads played their hearts out and despite the best efforts of a ref who should in all fairness have donned a Vasas jersey, they won, 2-1. But more than winning the game, and moving to top place on the table, they won the hearts and minds of the people. And for the players I spoke to afterwards, this was what mattered  most.

match 5Much work has gone in to putting the team back at the heart of the community. Fundraising initiatives to support local causes, open gates for training sessions, plans for a new stadium, all have done their part to replace the ‘them and us’ with the new team slogan: Együtt erősebbek vagyunk – we are stronger together.

At the end of this week, a week of endings and new beginnings, I’m grateful that I got to experience the magic of it all and look forward to seeing the lads in action against Síofok later this month.

Go on the boys in purple… continue to do us proud.