Half a century ago, Thiel would have been a Goldwater Republican, a churchgoer, and a paid-up member of a local business group. It wouldn’t have occurred to him to launch a fellowship program in order to induce young entrepreneurs to leave college. Education wasn’t one more “bubble” back then. Kachel would have been a Kennedy Democrat and perhaps, like his late father, an employee of the city of Seattle, living on a salary that could support a family of four. Neither would likely have felt a strong urge to escape from politics, like Thiel, or to join in the creation of a new community, like Kachel. But the past few decades have destabilized and eroded the institutional identities that used to bind Americans.
Half a century ago, Thiel, who is openly gay, would be stuck in the closet, subject to God knows what emotional, and possibly physical (given the barbarism of homophobia) torment. I think Thiel’s politics suck, but I am glad that he can live as openly gay man. That’s what I call progress. It’s strange to me that Andrew Sullivan heh-indeeds Packer without nothing this fact.
A commenter at Kevin Drum says of Ruth Marcus’s anti-obscentity jihad:
Back in my day teenagers weren’t uppity — and blacks sat in the back of the bus where they belonged, and women shut the hell up and did what they were supposed to, and those damned gays didn’t rub their sex lives in my face, and Jews didn’t join my clubs. That’s what you’re missing.
None of this has anything to do with reality — it’s a cri de coeur for past times when things were the way they were supposed to be before the damned dirty hippies destroyed the golden age. The fact that this makes zero sense if the complainer is black (Herman Cain?) female (Ruth Marcus), Jewish (half the “intellectuals” in the Republican party) doesn’t change it — people are morons, and the sorts of people who believe there once was a golden age are even more moronic.
Go back another generation or two past that and Nooners and Pat Buchanan — the undisputed king and queen of the awesomeness of the gold old days — didn’t join nice clubs either. My grandparents were among the earliest Irish-Catholic members of a fancy Cape Cod country club 50 or so years ago. (In another 20 years, their Jewish friends would be able to join.)
A lot of things have gone wrong the past fifty years, but a lot of things have gone right, especially with regard to discrimination. Moreover, a lot of the “dislocation” and “dysfunction” of contemporary American politics is caused by the right-wing response to the dirty hippies’ efforts to curtail ethnic/racial/gender/orientation discrimination.