Long before there were green cards and EB-5 visa help, there were folks just wanting a new life in a new place. Immigration to North America was possible for anyone who could get a ride over. Starting in the early 1600s, British colonists began settling the New England area of America. Other northern Europeans followed, colonizing the areas of the American West, the southern states and beyond. In Colin Woodard’s book, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, the traditional regional divides of North America are reviewed for their contributions to American culture. The general consensus: contrary to previous thought, the US is more hearty stew than melting pot, with meaty chunks of varying flavors and textures rather than a blended concoction of diluted piquancy. According to Woodard, American values are entrenched in the history of its settlers and rather than assimilating in to a homogenous mix of peoples and behaviors and ideals, Americans have held onto their ancestors’ distinct religious and ideological beliefs even in the face of growth and the influences of more than 400 hundred years.
The 11 described regions include:
Taking each region in turn, Woodard details the backgrounds of the settlers arriving to a new land and how each group’s experiences continue to shape American life, from our political leanings and civic allegiances to our more esoteric and spiritual outlooks. The distinct ways we view issues concerning racial disparity, gender equality and industrial activity, as well as gun control, politics, government and money, all hearken back to the people who came before use and the way they viewed and understood the world. Our differences transcend state lines and country borders, following the migration of the foreigners who settled North America at certain points in history. In fact, these differences are so firmly engraved in our psyches that it’s nearly impossible to form a truly united United States. Every significant event in North American history can be categorized according to our continent’s saga of exploration and colonization as seen through the eyes of our forebears and then us, in turn.
Colin Woodard’s American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America is an engrossing look at culture and genetics and how both intertwine to create communities with attitudes and expectations not too far removed from their original intentions regardless of time and progress.