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American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America Paperback – September 25, 2012
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An endlessly fascinating look at American regionalism and the eleven nations that continue to shape North America According to award-winning journalist and historian Colin Woodard North America is made up of eleven distinct nations each with its own unique historical roots In American Nations he takes readers on a journey through the history of our fractured continent offering a revolutionary and revelatory take on American identity and how the conflicts between them have shaped our past and continue to mold our future From the Deep South to the Far West to Yankeedom to El Norte Woodard reveals how each region continues to uphold its distinguishing ideals and identities today with results that can be seen in the composition of the U S Congress or on the county-by-county election maps of presidential elections
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The last third, however, was a bit disappointing. Woodard's own bias becomes increasingly evident as he breaks the county into two segments when describing post-Civil War and twentieth century behaviors. He paints the southern portion of the country as being backwards and barbaric while the northern portion and west coast are described as being champions of intellectual development and enlightenment. While many practices of the southern United States were indeed backwards and barbaric, his sweeping generalization turned me off, especially as a native of the so-called "Dixie Bloc." If you can get over an obvious preference for one section of the country over another then read this book because there are plenty of fascinating insights.
The near endless debates about the Constitution's "original intent" is laughable. There were and still are diametrically opposing values, politics, and social priorities in our country. The political experiment known as our Constitution was thrown together with concessions made and a reluctance to join together as one nation. Mr. Woodward also shows how cultural assimilation occurs and persists. An influx of immigrants do not change the area's cultural paradigm but, over time, it's the immigrants who take on the region's mores. The book also debunks cherished myths such as the founding of Jamestown, Puritans being champions of religious freedom, and how the American Revolution was one mindset. It also addresses such topics as why does Canada exist and did not become part of the United States; the stubborn caste system still prevalent in the South; how the various nations viewed Native Americans; the deep distrust between Yankeedom and the Deep South; why Reconstruction failed; and understanding the philosophical differences between freedom and liberty.
Mr. Woodward's work is a game changer. It not only helped clarify many puzzles I've witnessed over the decades, the book will influence my perspective from this moment on. The author states politics, religion, ethnic prejudice, geography, and agricultural practices kept colonists almost entirely apart. By the time other groups entered an already inhabited region, the first culture's ways had become fixed and remain so up to today. The important question Mr. Woodward asks is the United States sustainable or will it eventually break up into regions? It is not idle speculation. Take a look at the USSR and how it seemed to quickly crumble. National arrogance blinds many into believing things will remain the same here in the good ole U.S. of A. Yankeedom/New France and the Deep South/Greater Appalachia have mindsets in many philosophical areas that are simply nonnegotiable. It is a thought-provoking book that will help you see our nation for what it is... Sybil.