The US really has 11 separate ‘nations’ with entirely different cultures
In my work I travel extensively, and I’ve been fortunate enough to visit many countries and also to meet many people who live in those countries. In some I’ve even built lasting friendships.
When I speak to my foreign friends about the United State I keep trying to explain that distinction that the United States is really very, very different depending on where you are from and/or living.
Colin Woodward is a journalist, who’s originally from Maine, making him a true Yankee born in the nation of Yankeedom according to what he writes in his book, “American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America.”
In this book he makes the cogent argument that America is really a nation of nations, and not one undivided nation coast to coast as we have been led to think about it.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that politically the United States of America is not one sovereign nation under the Constitution organized as a Federal Republic of individual sovereign States, and neither is Colin Woodward. The argument is that the regions of the United States have such unique points of view that they can be looked at as absolutely distinct, similarly to the individual nations of Europe for instance.
I totally agree with his fundamental premise that the United States is regionally diverse … politically, economically, socially and in terms of the basic and fundamental things we value the most from region to region. Using his book as the starting point then …
Here are my tongue-in-cheek analysis and observations on the article:
I’m from what the author, Colin Woodward, calls, “New Netherlands” … and I now live in what the author refers to as “The Midlands.” I have both friends and family in “Yankeedom,” and on “The Left Coast,” as well as in “The Deep South” but most of those are displaced “New Netherland-ers.”
I know people from all the other regions and find it easier and more difficult to relate to their way of seeing the world depending on where they are from on this map. Sometimes I think those of use from the New Netherlands are the hardest for folks from almost all the other regions to fit in with over the long haul, because we’re both headstrong and pushy about our beliefs in a way that comes across as harsh, abrupt and/or rude to most others.
Once they know you’re from the New Netherlands they’ll accept the attitude that brings, but that isn’t the same as liking it. Those of us from the New Netherlands have just as hard a time at the close-minded, myopic ways we sometimes perceive those from these other nations operating. It’s also sometimes difficult to deal with what we see to be the naive and privileged attitude of the Left Coast-ers.
However, for New Netherland-ers it all begins and end with “Attitude” …
New Netherland-ers are particularly proud of their “Attitude” and see it as quite special, even unique. There’s a time element to it, i.e.: they expect everything to happen “yesterday” and only minimally accept “now” as an answer for when. They move fast and live fast, much faster for instance than the rest of the nations indicated on the map, with some few exceptions in the largest cities in Yankeedom, The Midlands, Tidewater, and surprisingly The Deep South, but that’s because of how many displaced New Netherland-ers there are in some of The Deep South cities.
The Greater Appalachia, The Far West and El Norte are foreign lands for us from the New Netherlands. We try not to go there, except for those New Netherland-ers who somehow have opted out of real life and work, and have the time to ski. Otherwise we avoid the natives of those regions, because we’ve heard strange stories of abductions and dueling banjos, a ritual we don’t actually comprehend ourselves.
One of the unique aspects of each of the nations of the United States are our food rituals …
The New Netherlands boasts a remarkably varied ethnic smorgasbord of foods … Italian (predominate), Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Greek, French, German, Ethiopian, Jamaican … and it goes on and on. We often refer to the option to go out by the question, “What do you want to eat tonight?” meaning which kind of ethnic cuisine. The other unique thing about food in the New Netherlands is that it is the only place on the planet with authentic pizza – forget Naples!
The other regions also have their unique cuisines … the southern New France has something they call “creole” food … worth a trip across the border to get. Tidewaters does some remarkable things with seafood, and the Midlands and some of Appalachia are masters of a meat dish called, bar-b-que. The Left Coast is highly influenced by both Asian and Mexican cooking, and you’ll find some unique fusions of these cuisines there, as well as an assortment of ethnic foods rivaling the New Netherlands. El Norte of course is where they have mastered the art of what’s called “Tex-Mex” cooking as well as some truly traditional Mexican foods. I’m not sure if or what they eat in Yankeedom or The Far West, but I hear it’s got to do with a lot of lobster, beef and dairy.
But, above and beyond all of these distinctions of the nations of the United States we see some of the greatest ways they differ politically and socially. What each region needs and wants in these arenas isn’t just different or unique, but literally oppositional.
For instance while the New Netherlands shares much in common with The Left Coast in many ways, they are in many other ways almost in direct conflict on some major political issues and how they think about social justice. In the New Netherlands it’s all about “applied politics and social justice” a kind of social street code. On The Left Coast it’s much more about an idealism and activism that’s divorced from the reality of many, if not the actual majority, of the inhabitants. I think I’d apply the word “gritty” to the politics and social issues of the New Netherlands, where I’d call them “idealistic” on The Left Coast. So sometimes those of us from the New Netherlands see the Left Coast-ers as somewhat prissy in their approach, while I’m guessing they see our way of attacking the same issues as aggressive.
The other regions also have their thoughts and approaches to politics and social justice. I don’t feel equipped to address them as they often make little to no sense to me personally. Like many of the Midland-ers have a kind of live and let live attitude they share with much of New France as I see it, while the Greater Appalachians and The Far West-ers have a more “Don’t Tread on Me” attitude they share in common with much of Yankeedom. The Deep South, again along with much of Greater Appalachia, is still trying to get past 1865 and into the modern world I think I live in, but I get that’s just a point of view for both of us. Tidewater folks really believe they are a separate country, and are more or less just annoyed to be attached to the mainland and have to deal with its issues along with their own, but they’re happy at least that they run the country-at-large. El Norte … who the hell know what they’re all about, except possibly wanting to annex the area they live in back to Mexico???
So it’s really useful for folks outside the United States to get that there is no such thing as “an American” if you’re thinking about some creature that’s the same from coast-to-coast.
It’s also just as useful for Americans to get that we are a divided people united by choice and affiliation, and that a dominant federal government or system doesn’t truly serve as it did when we were evolving from thirteen colonies to the fifty states we’ve become. We haven’t even included the lands of Polynesia or The Far North here either, just to make the issues even more complex.
Trying to unite our great country as fifty individual sovereign States under one singular federal government that we allow almost absolute power over us legally and economically is no longer as feasible or useful as it once was in simpler times. It may be that we look to this map to establish regional governments, that abide to a common agreement to collaboration via a centralized federal government, but with much more autonomy from it than the States are currently operating under, despite the promises of the Constitution that officially governs us, but has been continually degraded over time. Let the regions rule their lands and their people, and make the federal government beholding to them instead of the other way ’round.
Joseph Riggio, Ph.D.
Architect & Designer of the MythoSelf Process and SomaSemantics
P.S. – As always I’d love to read your own observations and comments … in fact I’m already looking forward to them!
P.P.S. – The original article from Business Insider, Jul. 27, 2015, can be found here: “This map shows the US really has 11 separate ‘nations’ with entirely different cultures” and you’ll find the book by the author, Colin Woodward, on Amazon here; “American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures in North America”