red and blue states
An increase in assimilation hasn't produced a decrease in alienation.

Although artists as well as gays (who, after all, represent a significant subset of the arts community) are substantially better accepted in America today than they were at the time the Counterculture emerged, you might not know it from looking at their work.

The disregard in which much of America's arts community holds the sensibilities of the mainstream has not shown much tendency to dissipate.  In fact, in certain ways it has become deeper—going from a kind of tentative resentfulness to something more automatic and profound.

Widely reported cases of disregard for traditional people’s values—for example, holding exhibitions in publicly funded museums featuring photographs of sadomasochistic gay erotica, or crucifixes submerged in urine—are only part of what’s transpired.  Less dramatic, but perhaps ultimately more telling events occur all the time, without any particular notice being paid to them by the news media.

To give one example, I tuned into my local public television station one evening and found it airing a performance of Swan Lake.  I’m a regular listener to classic music, but I’ve never seen much ballet, so this seemed like a good opportunity to begin acquainting myself with the art form via one of the all-time classics.

I hadn’t watched for very long, though, before I realized that this version was, uh, a bit different from the classic story.  It was a gay version, with the parts of the swans, including the prince's love interest, all danced by men.

Watching with an open mind,  I found that there was something strangely compelling about having these inherently exotic and unearthly creatures played by people who may have exemplified some of the same qualities in real life.

But I also had to wonder about the judgment of whoever had chosen to spend public funds broadcasting this particular production, rather than on any of the multitude of other productions that adhered more closely to the story line as written.  It was obvious that this production would make many people uncomfortable—not least of them, families with young children, who would end up having to provide an explanation of an aspect of human behavior that they might otherwise not have considered necessary, or even appropriate, to discuss with their kids.

At best, the decision to air this particular production reflected a choice to play to the most sophisticated of audience niches, focusing on the tastes of people who were already familiar with more conventional versions of the ballet, and who would also tend to take a broadminded view of gay eroticism.  At worst, it was a case of using public funds to deliberately fly in the face of the values of large numbers of taxpayers.  Either way, it was not an especially judicious way to reach out to the general public and enhance their appreciation of the arts.

An attitude of “Who cares about them?” is sometimes expressed with startling straightforwardness even in discussions of political matters. 

I once took part in an online forum regarding what the Democratic Party needed to do to in order to broaden its electoral appeal.  I expressed the opinion that it needed to project a sense of caring about more people than just feminists, gays, and minorities.  I mentioned certain specific instances in which the concerns of the mainstream had been treated with disregard, such as gays successfully suing to stop the Boy Scouts from meeting in public schools, after the Boy Scouts had indicated they wouldn't accept gay scoutmasters.

I had little success in persuading anyone to show a bit more understanding of the natural protectiveness of parents.  In fact, one gay activist from San Francisco was vehement about “not wanting people like that in our party.”

No one else in the discussion group saw fit to question the broader viability of such an approach to winning elections.