by Larry Kerschner
Have you ever asked yourself why in the world did people make the political and social decisions that they do? A remarkable book, American Nations, subtitled “a history of the eleven rival regional cultures of North America” by Colin Woodard lends answers to many of the political questions of today. Woodard shows that it is necessary to understand the history of each region and each region’s interactions with the other regions before beginning to understand why the United States is as it is today.
In his introduction Woodard states, “America’s most essential and abiding divisions are not between red states and blue states, conservatives and liberals, capital and labor, blacks and whites, the faithful and the secular. Rather, our divisions stem from this fact: the United States is a federation comprised of the whole or part of eleven regional nations, some of which truly do not see eye to eye with one another. These nations respect neither state nor international boundaries, bleeding over the U.S. frontiers with Canada and Mexico as readily as they divide California, Texas, Illinois, or Pennsylvania. Six joined together to liberate themselves from British rule. Four more were conquered but not vanquished by English-speaking rivals. Two more were founded in the West by a mix of American frontiersmen in the second half of the nineteenth century. Some are defined by cultural pluralism, others by their French, Spanish, or “Anglo-Saxon” heritage. Few have shown any indication that they are melting into some sort of unified American culture. On the contrary, since 1960 the fault lines between these nations have been growing wider, fueling culture wars, constitutional struggles, and ever more frequent pleas for unity.”
This book showed me history on how and why this country was actually founded that I was not aware of. In reading this book I have even found some understanding for my own belief system based on the cultural systems that my ancestors lived in.
The book follows this eleven nation history right up until 2011 when it was published. In the final chapter Woodard looks at several possible future outcomes based on the historical precedents. In the epilogue Woodard says, “If the power struggles between the nations have profoundly shaped North America’s history over the past four centuries, what might they hold for us in the future? Will the continent be divided into three enormous political confederations, or will it have morphed into something else: a Balkanized collection of nation-states along the lines of present day Europe; a loose E.U.-style confederation of nation-states stretching from Monterrey, Mexico, to the Canadian Arctic; a unitary state run according to biblical law as interpreted by the spiritual heirs of Jerry Falwell; a post-modernist utopian network of semi-sovereign, self-sustaining agricultural villages freed by technological innovations from the need to maintain larger governments at all? No one, if he or she is being thoughtful and honest, has any idea.
What can be said is this: given the challenges facing the United States, Mexico, and, to a lesser extent, Canada, to assume that the continent’s political boundaries will remain as they were in 2010 seems as far-fetched as any of these other scenarios.”