For Romney, Culture Is Malleable

Ta-Nehisi Coates writes an op-ed for the New York Times about Mitt Romney's recent use of the word "culture."

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Mitt Romney (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Ta-Nehisi Coates, senior editor for the Atlantic, dissects Mitt Romney's use of the word "culture" in an op-ed for the New York Times. Coates argues that while Romney doesn't seem to know much about American culture in large part, he is familiar with ignorance.

Is it worth noting that America, itself, was secured from its aboriginal tribes through centuries of oath-breaking, through a malleable regard for freedom, and through the auctioning of families?

Probably not. When people invoke culture in the Romney manner, what they are really invoking is a scale by which humanity may be ranked from totally dysfunctional to totally awesome. The idea is that culture is a set of irrefutable best practices, when in fact it is more like a toolbox whose efficacy depends upon the job. If you want to create a nation with a dominant entertainment media, perhaps American culture is the way to go. If you're uninterested in presiding over a nation with 25 percent of the world's prisoners but only 5 percent of its population, perhaps not.

Whenever this particular incarnation of the culture wars erupts, I think back to my earliest experiences with my august employer, The Atlantic. On the scale of ashy to classy, I was more the former than the latter. But my relationship with the magazine often put me in the dining company of men and women who were not unused to nice things. These were the days when I powerfully believed Breyers and Entenmann's to be pioneers in the field of antidepressants. My new companions had other beliefs, a fact evidenced by our divergent waistlines.

Read Ta-Nehisi Coates' entire op-ed at the New York Times.

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Sept. 19 2014 8:34 AM