The other day, I stood in line at the Publix deli, waiting to order their special sub of the week. Meatball. Ah, yes, a meatball sub with tomato sauce, spinach, onions, black olives, and melted parmesan and provolone cheeses. (It was delicious!)
A young gentleman was standing to my right, just in front of me. Of course, if you know me, you know I'm very personable, so I struck up a conversation. I'd guess he was in his mid-20s or so. Maybe 30. Strapping and good looking, he was very approachable and friendly. I noticed that, although he spoke perfect English, he had a distinct accent. To me, it sounded German. Instead of saying, "You're not from around these here parts, are you, punk?" I politely mentioned what I had noticed and asked him if he was German.
"No, I'm from Hungary, but spent five years in Munich. That was a very good guess. I kind of do have a bit of a German accent, so my friends tell me. You're not really wrong."
I told him my niece and former sister-in-law live in Berlin. He asked if I'd ever been there. I said no, but I'd love to visit some time. As a matter of fact, I'd enjoy going to Hungary, too. All over Europe. Of course, curiosity took hold, and that included a pinch of my journalistic penchant to ask questions, so one thing led to another. For sure, I tried not to load the questions. I didn't blurt them out without any semblance of segue. I asked them as part of the natural conversational flow. One thing had to lead to another. Mostly, I didn't want to push anything.
According to domestic media reports from almost everywhere, I wondered how we're perceived around the world. "What do you think of America over there? Aren't we kind of like the laughing-stock of Europe? You know, Trump and all?"
His facial expression suddenly turned from amiable to slightly serious. "No, not at all. America is America and we love it. Everybody loves America. We don't pay attention to that kind of stuff."
Please note that I made no attempt to sway his responses in any way. "Even in Germany? I mean, I can understand Hungary. but that's only one country?"
"No, Germany, too. We have our own problems and America's problems? It's not something we care so much about. Life goes on."
Clearly, I thought, this is not the picture our media are painting. Granted, he might have been what we would consider "a conservative" in this country. Or, maybe not. I didn't know. I didn't address his personal political views at all, and on his own, he brought up something else.
"No, they can't do that. They can't settle in Hungary. It's to keep them from passing through our country." Interesting, because it's part of the European Union.
"Do you mean, on their way to Germany?"
I kind of got the impression that there are lots of nationalists in Hungary, because he said that's precisely what the country wanted to do. They didn't want trouble following them like other parts of Europe. The problems you and I don't usually get to read about or watch on the news.
"Germany has a problem with many of those immigrants. A lot of German tourists and tourists from other European countries vacation in Hungary and they thank us profusely because they feel very safe. They don't have to fear immigrants. It's a real concern."
"You know, as part of the European Union, we weren't really allowed to build a wall, but we did it anyway because we are still our own country. Everyone that visits thanks us for doing it because," and he reiterated, "they feel safe."
I looked at this as but one man's position, but I seriously doubted (and still doubt) he's alone. I had time for one final thought.
"Do you think that Merkel and the other leaders talk about Trump and all, but the people don't listen to them?"
"Yes, that's the way it works. They are political. They pontificate. We are simply people."
And so it went. It was a fascinating conversation that I found to be a bit disturbing. What bothered me most about it was that we'll never hear this perspective from America's MSM, our very own mainstream media. If you want to know the truth, you need to talk to people. They really do love America.