Like I Made You Watch Friends

Kevin Drum on why he lives in the suburbs:

This is just a matter of laziness. My parents were Angelenos who moved to Orange County in the late 50s for the same reason as everyone else: it was where they could afford a house. I was born and raised here and I've just never had a strong reason to leave. So here I am. If anyone had ever offered me a job somewhere else, I probably wouldn't be here anymore. 

Partly this is because I don't have as strong a sense of place as a lot of people. I think living in a city would be great. But I've visited lots of small towns too, and there's a real attraction to that too. Ditto for suburbs. They all have attractions,

Andrew has been posting a series of e-mails from readers complaining about New York's cultural dominance. This of course piggybacks off Conor's essay bemoaning the fact that as a creative hub, New York allegedly prevents other cities from getting their due. I said my piece when Conor first ran his. But the more I've thought about it, the more puzzling the New York complaints have become. There is this pervading sense that a rabble of dastardly New Yorkers have hypnotized the rest of America into watching Mad Men and, having so duped the masses, enlisted their incomparable powers of smugness to stamp out more deserving outposts of bohemia.

Again, being from Baltimore, you'd expect that I'd share in this. And yet I really don't. I love my city--it's home. But my relationship with home, is like my relationship with a romantic partner. I can explain to you why I'm attached to her, but my attachment isn't dependent on your approval or recognition. Indeed, at some point, it really ain't none of your damn business.

But what Kevin says here also struck me. One reason I don't get the New York-hate is my lack of a strong sense of place. I have plenty of city attachment, but very little loyalty. Whenever I visit Chicago, I think I should be living there. Same for the Bay area. Same for Upper Montclair. Same for Owings Mils. Again, what's being called New York arrogance is really the provincialism of humans. New York has a lot of humans, and unfortunately some of them are provincial. But I'm not convinced that says anything about the city itself.
I found this anti-New York rant by fellow Baltimorean David Simon to be as smug as anything I've ever encountered in New York. I get his complaint about the New York-L.A. axis. I just don't think it'd be much better if it were Baltimore-Oakland access. Snobbery is human. And a lack of cultural recognition is not noble. It's like that old adage--we don't so much hate slavery, we hate that we were the slaves.
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus


A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book


The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"


This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.


What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.

More in Entertainment

From This Author

Just In