I have been distressed by what has happened to Mozilla founder Brendan Eich. The more I think about this sad story, the more I’m thrown back to something I witnessed back when I was a kid of 20.
On Election Night 1984, I was euphoric. Not only had the man I supported — the man who had made conservatism a genuinely governing philosophy and reenergized the West — been reelected in a historic landslide; I had even won a betting pool in the office I was working in part-time, because I picked underdog Senate candidate Mitch McConnell to upset veteran Kentucky senator Walter “Dee” Huddleston.
But looking back 30 years later, what I remember most poignantly — even searingly — from that night is this: I saw a guy with a Mondale-Ferraro poster confronted by some Reagan supporters, who took his Mondale-Ferraro poster from him and threw it out a window of the dorm I was living in. It was a creepy and humiliating thing to do. I went up to the guy a short while later and apologized to him, for all conservatives and all Reaganites: That’s not what we stand for.
I knew the guy’s name then, but I don’t remember it now. I do remember that he was a bright, decent, and principled fellow and I hope — indeed, I assume — that he did well in later life. Similarly, I’m pretty sure that a guy of Brendan Eich’s talents will do okay — indeed, much better than okay — after the injustice he has suffered in recent days.
I’m not ashamed of supporting President Reagan, and I’m not ashamed of supporting gay marriage. But I am ashamed of the way people can behave when they think history is on their side, and that they can get away with it. Yeah, you can try and plead with them that Hey, behavior like this will create a backlash against the ideas you believe in, so cut it out. But the much more important truth is that this sort of bullying is simply . . . wrong.
PS. The above has been changed to reflect the fact that I was 20 in 1984. No, I was not lying about my age; I’m just bad at math.