A visit to the Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West is a perfect encapsulation of the uniquity of the southernmost point in the United States.
The Florida Keys – and Key West in particular – have always been something of a peculiar place.
The southernmost island chain in the United States, the Keys sit astride the Straits of Florida, the passage between the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico trafficked for centuries by commercial vessels of all kinds. Their idyllic tropical location, combined with the availability of fish and safe harbors, made the islands simultaneously a place of refuge and of peril. Due to their strategic geography, the Keys were often passed through by European treasure galleons on the long journey back to the Continent. The myriad cays, inlets, channels, and atolls of the archipelago – and the storms which could whip up a frenzy – made navigation treacherous for even the most professional of crews. Wrecks abounded, heavily laden with the precious cargo of the New World.
The opportunity these treasure fleets represented – and the lack of oversight from the distant Spanish Crown – drew a whole host of marginal characters to this isolated outpost, this Gibraltar of the West. Even after the American government purchased Florida in 1819 and officially took possession two years later, governance in these remote islands was spotty at best. Pirates, wreckers, con men, outlaws, and adventurers all found their way to the Keys. And so did their cavalier and freewheeling lifestyle. Brothels, drink, illicit trade, and a laissez-faire attitude proliferated, eventually centering around the farthest large island, Key West. This cultural largesse was financed by economic largesse; the scavenging of rich local shipwrecks, combined with its low population, made mid-19th century Key West one of the wealthiest cities in the United States.
Israel is celebrating 75 years of existence this week. Here’s a smattering of thoughts on this miracle nation’s fascinating history and culture.
The Jewish State turns 75 this week, and Israelis are celebrating their Independence Day, known in Israel as Yom Ha’atzma’ut. The date changes each year, as it is referenced by the Jewish calendar, but it falls from April 25 to 26 in 2023.
Israeli independence is dated from the declaration of the State by the nation’s first Prime Minister and the dominant figure in Israel’s early politics, David Ben-Gurion, only a few hours before the official end of British Mandate Palestine. The state was declared despite the desires of the British (one of the few times you’ll see me fault the British Empire is in its treatment of Israel). It was declared knowing it would trigger a massive, all-out, genocidal invasion of the country by its far larger and better-equipped Arab neighbors. It faced down that war of extermination, along with several others, coming out victorious each time. It has dealt with constant terrorism for nearly its entire history, often funded or promoted by various nations and international institutions – including the United States. And still it is here, thriving, in spite of the gale-force headwinds. The existence of such a state is a prophecy fulfilled – whether from the Bible or from Theodor Herzl. (My money is on the latter.)
Somehow Israel seems both older and younger than its seven and a half decades of national life; this is just one of the many paradoxes that makes Israel one of the most interesting countries on Earth.
The idea of a ‘national divorce’ – a parting of ‘red’ and ‘blue’ states into separate national agglomerations – has been floating around the conservative ecosystem recently, especially on the fringes of the too-online far-right. This idea has bubbled up several times over the past decades on both sides of the aisle – usually when a preferred presidential candidate loses an election. From the 2004 election spawning ‘Jesusland’ versus ‘United States of Canada’ maps, to the radical right-wingers pushing secession after the re-election of Barack Obama in 2012, to the talk of ‘Calexit’ just days after the shock 2016 victory of Donald Trump, secession memes have been rife in 21st century American politics.
The piece, titled “A Black Professor Trapped in Anti-Racist Hell,” is written by Vincent Lloyd, a professor at Villanova University. He tells the story of his time as seminar leader for the prestigious Telluride Association summer program for high schoolers and how it descended into a dystopia of progressivism run amok, eventually turning its fire on the professor himself. The tale is not itself novel – there have been myriad such pieces across the media environment – but aspects of it are especially interesting given the professor’s own unabashed left-wing ideology.
The piece is worth reading in full, but there are some quotes that stand out, both in understanding the truly cult-like dynamics on display among the students and in the professor’s complicity in his own cancellation.
A brief polemic against the most monarchical, overblown, tedious piece of political entertainment in the American system.
Tonight is President Biden’s second State of the Union address (his first address to a joint session of Congress in 2021 was technically not a SotU because he had just been inaugurated). Most likely it will be far too long, constantly interrupted by Stalin-esque continued applause, and full of total nonsense. Biden will call out people in the audience that are brought in specifically for the purpose of being used as political pawns, he will make promises that everyone will forget about 5 minutes later, and he will occasionally go off-script to make him feel down-to-earth. The speech will be phony, the reception will be obsequious, and the TV coverage will be wall-to-wall.
How do I know this? Because every State of the Union address is exactly the same song-and-dance. Can you tell that I don’t like this “tradition”?