This spring, in the San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, there was a full-page ad for sheets. It showed a black woman and a white man rolling happily in their bed.
I was born in 1945 in San Francisco. It was only in 1948 that the California Supreme Court struck down the statute forbidding interracial marriage. In my lifetime, where I lived, such an ad might have been cause for prosecution for an offense against public decency.
The American Idea
Scholars, novelists, politicians, artists, and others look ahead to the future of the American idea.
It is easy today to look at those who presume to rule the nation, and despair. “I don’t know what I’d do if Bush gets back in,” a young woman says to the 71-year-old Nathan Zuckerman in Philip Roth’s new novel, Exit Ghost. It’s 2004, Election Night. “It’ll be the end of the road for a whole way of political life … I don’t think I could live with it.” “It’s a flexible instrument that we’ve inherited,” Zuckerman says. “It’s amazing how much punishment we can take.” “Have you ever lived through an election like this one? With the magnitude of this one?” the woman says. “Some,” says the old man.
Is it true? It can be hard to wish away the fear that we have reached the limit or gone beyond the point where what is broken can be put back together again. Those who rule are not democrats in any sense. They are autocrats. Government of the people, by the people, for the people is for them an offense, if not a joke. “Many of the people at that convention, for all their flag-waving, hate America,” Paul Krugman wrote in The New York Times in 2004, on the occasion of the Republican National Convention in New York. “They want a controlled, monolithic society; they fear and loathe our nation’s freedom, diversity and complexity.” But this has always been the American fact.