New at Zócalo

Essay

Why I'm Staying in Rome, Even While It Crumbles 

A British Novelist Will Remain in the Eternal City Because of What Its Past Can Teach About Surviving the Present

By Matthew Kneale

    When I tell Romans I have been a resident of their city for the last 16 years and have no desire to live anywhere else, they’re often a little baffled. “But why?” they ask, looking a touch sorry for me. “We’re all trying to get away.”
    It’s true that Rome, which has never been an easy place to make a living, is struggling these days. The economy is stagnant, I’ve never seen so many homeless people and beggars on the streets, and many Romans look visibly frustrated. It’s no wonder that populist parties are riding high.
    So why be here? Leaving aside the city’s superficial delights, like its superb climate and wonderful food, my own answer is simple:
    History.
    I am aware of no other great city whose past has been so well-recorded for so long. We have some idea—and often a very good idea—of what Rome was like, and what happened there, during each of the last 25 centuries. Nor, in any other great city, has so much survived physically from its past, through buildings and objects. If you know where to look, you can find souvenirs of the events that shaped Rome, allowing firsthand connections with great moments hundreds or thousands of years past.
    I can give a few examples. In a modern hall at the back ...

Connecting California

The Pain of Surviving the San Fernando Valley Can Make You Powerful

In Two Memoirs, Activist Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Comedian-Actress Tiffany Haddish Reveal How ’90s L.A. Shaped Them

By Joe Mathews

    How can Californians rise from horrific local circumstances to national influence?
    Two recent books offer one answer: It may help to have grown up amid the racism and institutional failures of Los Angeles in the 1990s.
    The two books are both popular and compelling memoirs from African-American women and Southern Californians now in their 30s. But the authors are very different people. One is the Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors, a deeply serious activist whose memoir, When They Call You a Terrorist, quotes Nelson Mandela and Emma Goldman. The other is the TV and movie star Tiffany Haddish, a profane comedian whose memoir, The Last Black Unicorn, offers an excruciating exegesis of discovering a sex tape of her boyfriend and his mistress—and that the video time stamp is her birthday.
    But, in distinct ways, the women show how to turn the pain of Los Angeles into national power. In their telling, the worst of L.A.—its discrimination, neglect, and public agencies so awful that they were taken over by other governments—helped forge strong identities. And the best of L.A.—its diversity—taught them how to speak to the broadest audiences.
    Both women learned bitter and useful ...

Connecting California Joe Mathews

  • Why California Needs Three Time Zones All Its Own

    By Resetting Its Clocks, the Golden State Could Save Energy, Help Kids Study Better, and Synchronize Its Politics

        Do you know what time it is, California?
        It’s time for new thinking about time, and time zones.
        By putting Proposition 7 on this November’s ballot, the state ...

  • If You Can't Beat the Bay Area, Join It

    Solving Northern California's Toughest Problems Requires a New Megaregion, from San Francisco and Tahoe to the San Joaquin and Salinas Valleys

        Welcome to the Bay Area, Merced!
        Further north, welcome as well to Modesto, Sacramento, Placerville, and Yuba City. And, to the south, you’re invited, too, Santa Cruz, Monterey, ...

  • LeBron, Take Your Ball and Go Home

    California Depends Too Much on Imported Stars Like King James. We Need to Develop More Young Prospects.

        Go back home to Ohio, LeBron James.
        Yes, as a fan, I’m happy to see the world’s greatest basketball player relocate to California and join my favorite team, the Los Angeles ...

  • Video Highlights

    Looking Back at Four Years of “What It Means to Be American”

    The Smithsonian/ASU/Zócalo Project on U.S. History and Identity Is Just Getting Started

    Since its launch on April 14, 2014, the "What It Means to Be American" project has convened 12 events in seven cities and published more than 300 essays on American history and identity. And we're just getting started. Here's a look back at where we've been, and where we're going.