If you want to better understand U.S. politics, history, and culture, AMERICAN NATIONS: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, by Colin Woodard should be required reading.
He argues there isn’t, and never has been one America, but rather several Americas. In American Nations, Woodard leads us through the history of our fractured continent, and the rivalries and alliances between its component nations. It’s a revolutionary take on America’s myriad identities, and how the conflicts between them have shaped our past and mold our future.
He explains why “American values” vary sharply from one region to another-how an idea like “Freedom” as understood by an East Texan or Idahoan can be the polar opposite of what it means to a New Englander or San Franciscan. The original North American colonies were settled by people from distinct regions of the British Islands, and from France, the Netherlands, and Spain, each with unique religious, political, and ethnographic characteristics.
Woodard tackles such questions as: why are there such enormous regional differences in opinion over such fundamental issues as the appropriate balance between individual liberty and the public good, over the relationship between church and state or whether the United States is a “Christian” nation or a secular one, if a national culture exists and, if so, whether immigrants should be encouraged to assimilate into it; if business and industry should be closely regulated or freed from constraints; over which party is defending American values and which one is undermining them.
By revealing this continent of rivals, American Nations will revolutionize the way Americans think about their past, their country, and themselves and is sure spark controversy and debate for the upcoming political season.