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A Strangeness Called Trust and Privacy

When Blanche DuBois stepped off that streetcar named Desire and stepped into her sister’s rough French Quarter neighborhood, it was an era far different from our own. The New Orleans portrayed in Tennessee Williams’s iconic play wasn’t idyllic or gentle, but it had the charm of post-war cheerfulness. America had slogged through the Great Depression, won the fight against Hitler, and was rewarded with decades of prosperity. Stanley Fischer may have been a violent lout to his wife and sister-in-law, but there was a certain innocence to the time after the Great War’s sequel and before Lyndon Johnson’s guns-and-butter debauchery. Civil society was still a strong presence in American life and disputes were handled neighbor-to-neighbor. The idea of ubiquitous government surveillance in peacetime was alien.