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From A Dissident’s Diary – A Hungarian Immigrant’s Learning Curve In America (1974 – 2000)

Hungary Today 2015.11.24.

Back in the 1970s, the Kádár regime labeled us dissidents. Of course, the word had an entirely different meaning from the word emigrant, which is what we actually were. But Kádár and his agitprop machinery for some reason wanted to portray us as dissidents – people who rebelled, who opposed the regime, who betrayed socialism. They either did not understand the precise meaning of the word or they simply wanted to blacklist us.

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Once in America, I often had the feeling that home-bred Americans had an attitude that “this is our pot, now you do the melting.” In other words, they expected us to follow their behavioral rules, their dictum-pactum recipes of integration and their success codes. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. This kind of expectation is fine since this is what we all expect from immigrants across the globe. However, this early American exceptionalism had its arrogant aspects back in the 1970s. The country had only about 220 million inhabitants back then (today, the population count is 321 million) and the majority were still white anglo-saxon protestants (WASP). Money ruled and people were fooled. WASPs were appointed chief executives of major corporations, they became members of the political elite, they ran the country clubs and secret societies, they were bank directors and brokerage firm chiefs. They were overrepresented in those well-to-do societal segments where money and power mattered. They were the elite and we were the plebs.[1]

I rebelled against that mentality. But since I essentially looked like a WASP, I had no major problems during the adjustment process trying to fit in. Language was a key element of the molding process. Good verbal skills, a healthy dose of self-confidence and smooth pronunciation were important. Schooling was a close second. Where did you graduate from? – they asked. If you came out of an ivy league school (like Harvard, Yale or Columbia), you were automatically ranked ahead of other candidates in a job interview. Thirdly, Americans like to screen where you reside within the country. When I responded that my home town is New Canaan, Connecticut, they were thoroughly impressed. But if I said Queens (where I also lived for a couple of years), I was unequivocally pushed back on the prevailing elite’s imaginary hierarchy. So, in sum, these three things mattered most: English skills, schooling and residence.

Being integrated and making the aforementioned adjustments took a lot of effort and drained even the European immigrant both emotionally and sometimes even physically. And when finally we put it all together, began to line up our dominoes and kept knocking on the doors of success, radical liberalism took hold and often pulled the rug from under us. Easy divorce, feminism, racial quotas and political correctness all contribute to the de-stabilization process. Any of these “new politically correct standards” can destabilize our existence. Hierarchy, traditionalism and accountability are values that are despised by liberals. They want to destroy hierarchy and create their own version of hierarchy, of course. It is called PC society. PC is the modern bible. If you deter from it, you will be excluded, ex-communicated, discriminated against, censored, ostrasized and denied.

So, one way to beat the system is to pretend. Pretend that you are one of them. Stay quiet, smile, be compliant and respectful and possibly even paint yourself in rainbow colors on the internet every once in a while. My American existence was an obedient learning curve. I began working in a car wash for $1.25 and hour. Later I held jobs as a gas station attendent, construction worker, limousine and cab driver in New York City. I also held transient and part-time jobs that were commission based, such as an insurance and real estate agent. After 6 years of hard work and some deprivation, I was knocking on the doors of success when I graduated from ColumbiaUniversity and began working as a product manager for Pfizer International. Later, I moved to Washington as I considered the Washington area more family centric and less stressful. I got married, began working for the U.S. government as a civil servant and basically began to climb a career ladder enroute to a more comfortable existence. Things were finally peachy keen, I thought. Was I ever wrong in retrospect.

Soon after we reached a comfortable lifestyle with my new family, liberal values interceded and essentially railroaded my career. The institution of easy divorce, cynicism and lack of compassion for a father trying to support his family all played a part of having to endure difficult times during the last years I spent in the United States. Incumbent democratic administrations reiterated that conservative values such as patriotism, family values and christian religious beliefs were not welcome during their reign. Clinton and Obama both relied on the votes of newly naturalized illegal immigrants (whom they naturalized using executive orders) and generally reinforced their rule catering to non-conventional interest groups, such as feminist organizations, abortion and gay rights advocates.

However, I still feel that the 25 years I spent in the United States made me a more valuable and experienced international policy expert who is well trained in economics and social science disciplines. These are the skills I wish to rely on as I am trying to contribute to the advancement of a more successful Hungary as part of the international community of democratic nations. In retrospect, I admire America for its traditional values laid down in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. On the other hand, I feel that the United States should go through a thorough transformation process in order to keep up with a rapidly changing world.


In order to accomplish this improved America, we should continue to reject quotas and affirmative action, while supporting family values and a generally more conservative lifestyle, disallowing any radical transformation to the nuclear family. We should also eliminate the institution of easy divorce and discourage late term abortion and the single lifestyle promoted by cosmopolitans in the Northeast. On the other hand, we should support some prudent restrictions on the ownership of handguns (eliminating the “right” for common citizens to own any paramilitary weapons altogether). Socially sensitive people (as we all should be) should prefer a steeply progressive income tax system to correct the vast income and wealth differences that are currently ailing the United States and I feel that a universal, single-payer health care system is long overdue in America.

My dual citizenship helps me understand and decipher international events and hopefully enables me to apply 20/20 vision to world affairs without any corrective eyeglasses. I wish for the United States and Hungary to make peace with each other and act in unison in world affairs. For this to happen, I prefer to have a change at the helm in America. I think the U.S. badly needs a new president, preferably from the republican side this time (Pataki was my favorite) to regain the respect and integrity that the country formerly possessed under the Reagan and Bush (senior) administrations.

Adam Topolansky


[1] In ancient Rome, the plebs was the general body of free Roman citizens who were not patricians, as determined by the census. In the U.S. military, Plebes (spelled differently) are freshmen at the U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, Valley Forge Military Academy, the Marine Military Academy, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Georgia Military College, California Maritime Academy.