Spencer, I wasn’t trying to say anything insulting about Hungary.
What I was trying to get across is that the only large Austro-Hungarian city I’d ever seen was Prague – which I had been running around for a few years. (I didn’t live there, but when you live in the Czech Republic you have to travel there for something or other all the time.) When I got to Budapest, everything looked almost exactly the same as in Prague. The ordinary architecture was the same, the streets looked the same, there was a big river running through the city. Everything was the same, except that nothing was the same. I felt as if I should know where everything was, but I didn’t. That was why I had that surrealistic feeling. I wouldn’t be confused that way going from Madison to Minneapolis, from Poitiers to Bordeaux, or from Bonn to D?sseldorf, but for some reason the two Austro-Hungarian cities stuck me that way. The only difference was that at that time I seemed to note more cultural and economic sophistication in Budapest than there was in Prague. (This was in the early 1990s.)
I didn’t mean any insult to guys named Attila. One of my favorite Hungarians is a very kindly professor named Attila. I had never heard before of anyone being given that name, and it was a surprise. It’s very common in English to refer to a really bad, scary, unpredictable boss, teacher or criminal as “Attila the Hun”, and in fact that’s one of the first comparisons that comes to people’s minds in that situation, even among people who don’t know who Attila the Hun was. Since the typical American has never heard of or met any other person named Attila, nobody notices a problem.
We have this problem in my family with the name Adolph. The most beloved man in my family was my mother’s uncle Adolph. We’d love to name kids after him, but we can’t. And I felt sorry for a student I had from Libya named Osama. Most people here have never met a person named Osama, and even though people know he’s not THE Osama, it still startles them. It would be like having a handsome, cheerful appliance salesman graciously introduce himself to you as Tom Hitler. You know he’s got nothing to do with the famous Mr. Hitler, but you’ll have to know him for a while before you can get the image out of your head.
I happen to like (but not always agree with) George, so that’s not a problem for me. I am very close to the Iraqi refugee community here – which is very large – and if George ran for the office of God, most of them would vote for him. So let’s not get into that. There’s no winning those arguments.
Don’t worry. I’ve always had a GREAT time in Hungary, and have beloved friends there.