Old World Illiberalism: The Fall of Schengen

As Sweden introduces identity checks at the Danish border, the Schengen Area has come under threat, along with the liberalism at the heart of what is valuable within the European Union. Sweden isn’t the first. Greece, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Hungary, Austria, Germany, and Denmark have added checks, controls, and fences to various extents. Under pressure from […]

When Museums Obscure History: Eastern Europe and WWII

FBI Director James Comey is taking heat for a speech he gave, reprinted in the Washington Post, that blamed Poland for the Holocaust as well as Germany. Polish officials condemned him and summoned the American ambassador to apologize. However, the scandal should be over the lack over the Polish officials’ interpretation of history. Without local […]

A Spring in Russia, or, “You Should Come in the Summer”

Russia exists on a level alongside the United States, India, and China. It is a culture, a history, a nation that surpasses the individual and escapes comprehension. The contradictions will stand, and fate demands a surrender to a postcard, a snapshot with a few words to satisfy curiosity. Take that as an omission of humility […]

A Humbling Act: Perspective on Being Born in America

Travel is a constant reminder that there, but for the grace of God, go I. I was lucky enough to be born in the churning economic monstrosity that is America. I’d only feel guilty for that if I tried to deny the same to anyone unlucky enough to be born outside it. Had I lived […]

Discovering Romani Culture in the Czech Republic

With the exception of stereotypes*, it’s difficult to find information concerning Romani (gypsies) in Europe. Rick Steves has a brief article on his site, and George Soros’ Open Society Foundations gives a bit more information. For a continent obsessed with museums, only one exists** in Europe dedicated to the history and culture of the Roma […]

Talkin’ Brno Blues: Alienation and Dislocation While Traveling

The morning is the worst part of the day. If I’m forced to breakfast, I’ll glare at the food as I eat, or moulder over a glass of tea with too much sugar. The upswing is that the day improves as time passes, so I’ve the rest of the day to enjoy after a hellish […]

Talkin’ Praha Blues: Czechoslovak Jazz Under Communism

  Jazz in Czechoslovakia was inspired, experimental, and popular. It was also subversive. The Nazis attempted to regulate jazz, and the communists suppressed it. Jazz threatened basic principles of the totalitarian powers: it was hyper-individualistic, improvisational, and innovative. Josef Skvorecky detailed this in “Red Music,” from Talkin’ Moscow Blues: When the lives of individuals and communities are […]

Useful Idiots and the Defense of Totalitarians

Why do smart people support dictators? Usually, they don’t defend a murderer, and probably oppose wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or drone strikes in Pakistan. Yet, when a foreign leader opposes “American imperialism” or upholds a socialist vision, all is forgiven. Who needs freedom of speech, a bourgeois virtue that protects capitalists? What’s horrifying in […]

Your Ideology Makes You Lie to Yourself

As we descend into the cave of reality and search for truth, ideology guides our action. Yet, as the mystery in the cave deepens, the ideology we use as a flashlight catches our eyes and blinds us instead of lighting the path. Though I’m skeptical that we can escape the cave, we can avoid blinding […]