Puritans, Both Foreign and Domestic

One of the enduring European criticisms of America is that we are too prudish, too moralistic, and too idealistic. Unlike our weltschmerz-besotted betters across the pond with their turgidly tragic theater and cynical cinema, we make everything into a huggermuggering moral folderol.

I’ll return to that in a moment, but first let’s talk about József Szájer, a Hungarian member of the European Parliament in Belgium.  

Szájer is a founding member of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz Party. Among Fidesz’s many controversial priorities is an ongoing crackdown on homosexuality. Presumably inspired by Vladimir Putin, who has incorporated distaste for homosexuality into a broader nationalist moral panic, Orbán’s Fidesz sees homosexuality as a kind of treason against the national soul. This sort of thing is very popular among authoritarian types, particularly when they don’t have enough Jews or immigrants to demonize (though that hasn’t stopped Orbán from playing those games as well). Szájer himself has reportedly boasted about how he personally rewrote the new Hungarian Constitution to define marriage as a heterosexual institution.

Now, I fully understand the arguments that marriage is a heterosexual institution, and I think reasonable people can have that debate while nonetheless acknowledging that, as a practical matter, that ship has sailed in the United States. Regardless, that’s not why I bring him up.

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