"American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America" by Colin Woodard

By Woodard, Colin

Reviewed by David

ISBN 9780143122029

“The same as it ever was” could be the subtitle of Colin Woodard’s insightful
deep dive into the origin stories of the (so-called) United States of America’s
contemporary cultural conflicts. Simply put: how the disparate groups of
migrants who descended upon this continent back in the 1700s viewed the
world is clearly reflected in their geographic heirs’ beliefs, attitudes, and laws
today. For instance, the Dutch’s sense of tolerance and emphasis on
commerce is so very New York; the Puritans’ passion for hard work and
community ahead of the individual manifests today as the classic New
England mindset; and the Tidewater settlers showing up thinking like
conquistadores, bringing their sense of aristocracy and us/them to is
reflected in the politics of today’s mid-atlantic states.

Woodard acknowledges right out front the unfortunate inherent bias in

focusing on European male colonizers’ attitudes and beliefs, but as he notes,
it is what it is, given that they’re the ones who have wielded the levers of
power these last couple centuries.

That said...this framework for thinking about America is particularly relevant
now in the fallout of the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade
(given its pretextual emphasis on “states’ rights”). There are serious
implications from this analysis – among them the normalization of the
realization that the country we live in was never really a single country and
the “melting pot” conceit was in essence a branding exercise (outside of the
five boroughs anyway). The notion that somehow after all this time the very
disparate cultures that began this country would somehow forge a more
unified view of...well anything...begs the question: how much longer will the
myth of states united continue?

Woodard’s work illuminates these questions in a thoughtful and careful
manner, but ultimately the message is clear: the United States has
always been a collection of cultures that did not like, respect, nor really
wish to even be around each other. Whether he intended it to be so or
not, American Nations is now part of the puzzle inexorably revealing 
the eventual end of the empire.

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