Psst-watch out for those reds

Hungarians topple Stalin statue (photo from Wikipedia)

On Saturday, October 23, my eleven-year-old daughter finished her soccer game as clouds skidded across the sky. I said to our coach, Janos, who is Hungarian but came to the United States on a soccer scholarship years ago, “Happy Revolution Day.” My husband, whose father escaped Hungary in 1956, likes to make pörkölt, a kind of gulash, in commemoration. I think of Pierre, our friend in Paris, whose father survived communist prison camps, privation, and escape attempts.

Janos turned to our star soccer player’s mom, who was talking about her husband being from Cleveland. “I hated Cleveland!” Janos said, “It was awful! I was ready to go back to Communism after living there!”

I think all Hungarians have a penchant for hyperbole, but the soccer mom went one further, and said, “You don’t need to, Obama is bringing communism here, the direction this country is heading!”

Communism isn’t an abstraction to survivors of the Soviet takeover and their descendants. Russian tanks rattled into Budapest and the entire community rose up in protest, staving off bewildered soldiers for three wildly glorious days until the Red army rallied and crushed the opposition. My father-in-law is full of harrowing stories, including when he and his sister were nearly executed one evening, after getting caught bringing dinner to the resistance.

But at the mention of communism this fine Fall Saturday, the soccer mom went off. “Yeah, look at what Obama’s doing, all his scary socialist policies, he’s leading this country into hell….”

Janos had the temerity to say, “I am socialist to his bone”–look at Sweden, look at France, Germany, he said, all the other developed counties that provide decent healthcare, education, and so on. The soccer mom is probably so scandalized, who knows–maybe she’ll pull her daughter from the team to prevent further infection.

What Obama wants is not communism, let alone true socialism. It’s common sense and human decency for a society to provide its citizens basic needs.

What Obama wants is not communism: It’s common sense and human decency for a society to provide its citizens basic needs.

As I puzzle over the Tea Party madness boiling the brains of excitable people, I think of Irma, our weekly luxury and savior who helps clean our house each week (it used to take us the entire weekend to do it ourselves, and she can whip through in five or six hours). Irma told me this morning she cancelled her health insurance because it cost almost $500 a month. She could no longer afford it. That’s about what we pay her for her help. In the five years I’ve known her, I don’t think she’s taken a vacation. When she’s sick I tell her not to come, although we pay her every week regardless. A lot of times, she still comes to work even if she doesn’t feel well, perhaps for her own sense of job protection.

“What about the new health care bill that finally passed?” I asked. “Can’t you get something there?” She shook her head. She didn’t know where or how to get that. She doesn’t qualify for medicare.

The woman works hard. She’s a good person. Her father immigrated from the Mexican state of Nayarit, and the whole family works long hours to help support each other and their humble life here. They pay taxes, all of them.

She and other Americans should have better protection; folks like her anchor and contribute to this society. If the Tea Bagger soccer mom has her way, Irma will lose her only hope for insurance, whenever and wherever and however that kicks in. And the soccer mom can drive off into the sunset in her giant SUV, thankful that she has successfully fought off what she thinks is communism.

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