[S]omehow in culture, “lowest common denominator” has become a way to describe not what’s unifying but what’s worst, as if we all come together where we are awful and stupid. In fact, when we do all come together in large numbers, it’s usually not where we are awful and stupid, particularly not because we are awful and stupid.

This NPR story by Linda Holmes about coastal snobbery and “the masses” appeals to me not just because the vilification of roughly half the country by the other half is both A) a bad thing and B) a two-way street that each half pretends is one-sided, but because I always thought the best things about our culture were the things we mostly agreed upon.

I will probably end up just repeating what Linda Holmes said in her very smart piece if I type for too long, but to make it clear: The things in America that everyone likes are not Honey Boo Boo and Taylor Swift and whatever-else thing you think is destroying our culture. Those things are actually deeply contentious. Stuff that everybody likes? Prince. Star Wars. Pizza. “Call Me Maybe.” Lost, in its early seasons. Willie Nelson, if you live in Texas. Stuff that is good, in other words. 

The zeitgeist is usually about stuff that is pretty good, but not terribly idiosyncratic. It’s the height of arrogance to argue that things that very specifically appeal to our particular idiosyncrasies are actually the best stuff, and that people who don’t share them are foolish. You love those things more because they speak to a part of you that other people don’t seem to have. That’s the only real difference between what you love and what everybody loves.

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