Hawaii vs Florida
Beaches vs. beaches (go ahead and figure this out)
Hello sunstroke victims of the planet:
(what is the difference between SPF2 and SPF4, I ask you? also why could they show wine on a sunscreen ad but not a wine ad in the 80s?)
Today we discuss my two recent trips to beach locations: Maui, Hawaii vs Fort Myers Florida. However, we are not going to compare their natural wonders, their fabulous restaurants, or make any other comparison that can just as easily be Googled.
I want to consider….patriotism.
Hawaii was the 50th state to join together to make our country. It was included officially in August of 1959. We don’t talk about this very much, even though there are lots and lots of people alive who personally remember this event.
Ironically, many of these people live in Florida.
A truncated history of Fort Myers:
Fort Myers is a beachfront town in Florida named for a long-abandoned fort that was built twice as a deterrent to some Seminole Indians that would have liked to also live there (the second iteration of the fort was named after the mayor’s future son-in-law). The fort played a role in the Civil War as a Union stronghold, manned by a Black regiment to intentionally unnerve the opposition. In 1885, Edison built a lodge in the town that had sprung up around 1860. Edison’s popularity created a tourist attraction of the town. Currently, the local population does not wear masks in public for the most part, at least not outdoors on the particularly sunny winter day that I went down to attend my friend’s memorial service. (here’s the longer version of this history)
This is not the politics that I wanted to discuss.
What is of interest to me was that while I was in Hawaii, I saw a Vietnam Veteran being thanked for his service by another man of his own age. The greeting was not casual. It caused my heart to squeeze a bit because I haven’t heard anyone being thanked for their service outside of formal commemoration ceremonies since I was a little kid—and certainly not by a civilian stranger without preamble in public. It made me sad that this civility has been all but lost (I have never seen anyone younger than 20 thank anyone for military service, ever), and what made me sadder was that Fort Myers had so many flagpoles last weekend that were flying no American flag, but instead were being used to fly either a benign message of the season…
…or more commonly, some political statement: either the mostly blue pro-police flag, or some flag with a Trump slogan on it, or the worst: a flag that had an American flag blocking out the “UC” in a not-at-all-child-friendly phrase directed at the current President of the United States. By name.
For the record, I hate the use of official flagpoles for any message other than flying a United States of America flag. But this was particularly offensive to me:
(I am amused that autocorrect insists the word I am seeking is “Untied” States of America.)
I was struck by the contrast of the expression of patriotism in these two touristy beach locations.
In one location, the somber nature of the very genuine gratitude to a soldier in a typically touristy setting, leading to an awkward acknowledgement that no one should be required to endure what this soldier had experienced, but that it was appreciated — this made me feel quietly patriotic and very sorry that I hadn’t done more for my country, if only to thank the people who had.
In the other location, there was a noisy flapping of banal or tasteless/offensive banners replacing genuine American flags on homes that consider themselves devoutly (and loudly) patriotic.
The contrast struck me, is all.
Super excited about my first real listcicle (did I spell that right?) on Medium: 5 perfect gifts for a writer with kids. Have a quick gander!
On the horizon: I have a short story included in a forthcoming anthology called A Fire to Light Our Tongues, and I just heard from Elizabeth Dell, one of the co-editors, that her partner Donna Walker-Nixon, passed away. This doesn’t affect the publication date but it made me so sad to hear since Donna was the fire behind the project. TCU will be publishing the book in May 2022.
ALSO on the horizon: spent all week editing an essay for Mutha Magazine and I’m so excited about it! Really this whole nonfiction thing is kind of edifying. (shh don’t tell anyone) — I’ll let you know the pub date when I know.
Last Tuesday, I hosted a Literary Salon (co-hosted, actually) of storytellers. What a night! The playback is available on YouTube.com/penparentis if you’re interested. Running time is around an hour.
I haven’t had much time to watch the Olympics but one of my brothers (who lives in Lithuania) had some very amazing thoughts about why we watch athletes:
There's something beautiful in all manner of sports regarding the performer's intimate knowledge of the constantly changing relation of gravity to their moving body. Elasticity and ever-presence conjoin to create the illusion of effortlessness.
All sports can be reduced to the statement: "I know where I am and I know what I'm doing."
The highest achievers: "I know exactly where I am and I know exactly what I am doing."
We applaud this exactness.
I think it is possible that a great deal of human (personal) suffering stems from the certainty that we do not know exactly what we are doing, and a lot more internal suffering stems from living in denial about where exactly we are: in our lives, in our relationships, in our emotional, financial, creative, and all other situations.
Here’s to finding a little exactitude this week.