Many younger readers will have trouble believing that anybody older than Andrew Sullivan exists, but I am not only a good bit older than Mr. Sullivan, I’ve been immersed in American life much longer, and I can remember when the Right was really Right. I remember KKK billboards on the roadside, and I especially remember one showing a picture of Martin Luther King in a photograph captioned “Martin Luther King in a Communist training school.” I remember when you couldn’t buy a drink in much of the South, when mixed race dating led to bloody beatings if not death, when the liberal position on homosexuality was that it was a terrible and destructive disease that might, possibly, be treated by years of psychotherapy, when divorced people couldn’t get re-married in mainline Protestant churches, abortion was illegal, Ulysses was banned, marijuana was a life-threatening drug that beatniks and jazz musicians used in New York, and members of the Communist Party couldn’t speak on university campuses or hold teaching jobs.
In other words, I remember a United States where Andrew Sullivan’s darkest fantasies were fulfilled — and I’ve watched us move steadily away from that for nigh on sixty years. (Yes, kids, people can be that old and still blog, but that’s only because my teams of underpaid, starving research associates can transfer my cursive Gothic script from the parchment I like onto one of those computational devices you young people use.) In more than half a century of watching the ebbs and flows of American politics, I’ve seen this country steadily become more tolerant, more thoughtful, more open and in many ways more just.
The Christian right that apparently keeps Mr. Sullivan up at night shivering with fear is a pathetic, compromising bunch of namby pamby wimps compared to the holy warriors of my youth.