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No, understanding the Rise of the Squares means understanding our silent, concurrent Crisis of Cool. At its core, cool means one thing: being yourself. Being authentic. Not going along with the crowd, or even giving a darn about what anyone else thinks.

This is why cool matters deeply to Americans — it’s in our escape-to-the-New-World DNA — and to adolescent Americans in particular. Only … cool is in trouble. It has been commoditized, turned into a marketing trick, a studied means of selling stuff. Modern cool is Newton declaring himself “an icon.”

It’s a calculated pose, not an organic byproduct. It’s pop singer Lana Del Rey — real name: Liz Grant — whose manufactured cool (and seemingly manufactured lips) have triggered a swift and furious backlash.

When conservative voters exhibit ongoing apathy toward Mr. Romney — whose flip-flopping policy positions and stilted speaking manner are less suggestive of an actual human being than a vote-courting algorithm — isn’t this packaged, premeditated superficiality what they’re resisting?

Indeed, this is Mr. Santorum’s one real advantage over Mr. Romney. He seems genuine. He is very much a political square — in the minds of many pollsters and pundits, too far to the right on some issues to be electable. Thing is, Mr. Santorum is fine with that. Welcomes it, even. He’s comfort food for the Republican base because he’s comfortable with himself. Much like Lin and Tebow. All three men are who they are, steady as Eastern Island statues, straightforward as the hero in the new “Captain America” movie. What you see is what you get.

And that’s what makes the Three Squares men of the cultural moment.

Ours are tumultuous times, socially and economically. Technology is speeding up the rate of change. Reality television — a realm of DSM-IV case studies and screeching Real Housewives, though I repeat myself — reflects our buzzing anxieties. Squares are a security blanket. We may not always agree with them. We may not always relate to them. But we can trust them, because they trust themselves.

Recently asked about Lin, Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said that his new point guard was not a fluke, that he had all the necessary basketball tools. Perhaps inadvertently, D’Antoni also captured the essence of square appeal.

“[Lin] is the real deal,” he said.