It was the summer of 1970, and the war in Vietnam was never going to end. B-52s were carpet-bombing Cambodia, gouging craters into its eastern hills; across the border, angry G.I.s were fragging their officers. Back home, radicals were bombing police stations and burning down banks. In May, the National Guard shot four students dead at Kent State. To paraphrase Yeats, things were falling apart; the center couldn’t hold.
When I was a kid, it seemed like all adults smoked. Cigarette butts littered the sidewalks, the stench of stale tobacco clung to the upholstery, and ashtrays were everywhere. We made ashtrays in art class as gifts for our parents.
Back then, people smoked in their offices, their cars, and on airplanes. On airplanes! In California these days you can’t even light up in a bar.
CALIFORNIA Magazine: In the prologue of your new book, The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right, you say you are now “perceiving ugly truths about America and about conservatism that other people had long seen but I turned a blind eye to.” What are some of those ugly truths?