Monthly Archives: December 2012

Body Impolitic’s 2012 Guide to Sane Holidays

Laurie and Debbie say:

This list is (mostly) for folks who celebrate the upcoming holidays, and are fortunate enough to have people and resources to celebrate with; if you don’t fit that group, skip to the bottom. If you do fit, then even if your family are your favorite people and you look forward all year to the holidays, you still may find useful hints here.

1)  You have a right to enjoy things in your own way.To the extent possible, do as much or as little holiday stuff as you want; it’s supposed to be a celebration, not an obligation.

2) Spend time with people who know you’re awesome. If you must spend time with people who are toxic, remind yourself three times (out loud) in your last alone moments before seeing them that they are toxic. Then do something really nice for yourself the minute you are out of their presence. (If they are not just toxic but abusive, here’s some excellent advice.)

3) Eat what you enjoy. Desserts are not sinful, they’re just desserts.

4) Wear what you think you look terrific in; accept compliments and ignore digs about your clothes.

5) Plan your responses to inevitable comments beforehand. Try not to spend energy on the digs, because they probably aren’t going to stop. For example, if you know that your sister is going to tell you, “for your own good,” how your hairstyle is unbecoming to you, be prepared to say, “I appreciate your concern. Excuse me, I really want to catch up with Uncle Harry.”

6) If you think kids are fun, they can be a great escape from the adult follies. If kids drive you crazy, keep your distance when you can, and try to keep your patience otherwise: they didn’t overstimulate themselves with sugar and toys.

6) If you have enough to give to someone who has less, this is a good year for it. If you know someone who is having a crappy holiday, take a moment to do something for them that they will enjoy.

7) If you hate the holidays, or they make you sad, you’re not alone. Participate as little as possible. They’ll be over soon. If you’re wishing you had someone (someone particular or folks in general) to spend the holidays with, treat yourself with special care. If you’re a volunteering type, that can work, but so can staying at home and taking a hot bath.

8) Be effusive about every gift you get; then be discreetly rude about the awful ones later to your friends. If they’re really awful, throw them off a bridge in the middle of the night.

If these aren’t your holidays, have a great Chinese meal and enjoy the movie!

We’ll be back in the beginning of the New Year.

Anti-Semitism in Hungary: History Must Not Repeat Itself

Laurie and Debbie say:

If you live in the U.S., and you’re not watching the news extremely carefully, you probably don’t know that a powerful Hungarian politician, Marton Gyongyosi, made a speech in the Hungarian parliament at the end of November, calling for “the authorities to compile a national list of Hungarian Jews, especially those in parliament and government, who represent what he described as a ‘national-security risk,’ allegedly slanting Hungarian foreign policy in Israel’s interest.”

Anti-semitism in Hungary, and all of Eastern Europe, is many centuries old, and runs very deep. Gyongyosi is the head of Hungary’s extremist Jobbik party, which denies being anti-Semitic, and denies being anti-Roma, but Anti-semitism has been on the rise in Hungary for some time. The Hungarian constitution has been rewritten in an extremely nationalistic vein. (For more information on the constitutional issues, see Kim Lane Scheppele, whom Paul Krugman frequently quotes or lends his column to.)

Miklos Horthy, the Hungarian leader during the Holocaust, who sent 400,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz, is being “rehabilitated,” with statues erected to him and town squares renamed in his “honor.”

Recently, the government adopted a new national core curriculum for Hungarian schools. Required reading will include, among other works, the writings of Arrow Cross author Nyírö [a member of parliament during the reign of terror of the national socialist Arrow Cross Party from October 1944 to March 1945] and his contemporary Albert Wass, a writer who was sentenced to death in absentia in Romania for war crimes and died in the United States in 1998.

Formal reaction to Gyongyosi’s call for registration was slow, but has been substantial:

Politicians from left, right and centre addressed a demonstration in front of parliament on December 2nd, called to protest against [Gyongyosi’s speech]. Thousands of demonstrators arrived from across the country to hear speeches from Antal Rogan, parliamentary leader of the ruling right-wing Fidesz party, Attila Mesterhazy of the Socialists and Gordon Bajnai of the centrist Together 2014 movement.  All pledged their solidarity with Hungary’s Jews, and called for Hungarians to take a stand against hate and extremism. …

Our concerns about Gyongyosi and Jobbik are shaped both by our knowledge of Holocaust history and by having grown up as American Jews in the period when the world was coming to terms with the reality, scope, and horror of the Holocaust.

About 15 years ago, we were flying back from Boston together after a convention. We were at the gate with our carry-on luggage, when the gate attendant announced that the flight was very full, carry-on luggage would be limited, and most of what people were planning to carry on would be checked.

Without thought or discussion, we both immediately started re-packing everything, making sure that the things we had to carry on were within the parameters of the announcement. It wasn’t until we boarded the plane that we both noticed that hardly anyone else on the full flight had paid the slightest bit of attention, and everyone was carrying on as much as they normally would.

We looked at each other and said, simultaneously, “Jews.” Both of us were taken aback by our reactions … and horrified by them. In a situation with no threat, we had both reacted like people who know that one day we will have to leave without our luggage, and also like people who know that, while following the authority’s rules will not save you, it can sometimes keep their eyes off you this time.

Historically, racist movements grow locally, and those people in the larger world who care are in the dark until it’s too late. One of the strongest weapons we have against the Gyongyosis (and the Horthys and the Nyírös) is forcing them to act in the sunlight. So, from half a world away, we’re paying attention–and we hope you are too.