Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Colin Woodward's Eleven "States" of The Americas
“To understand violence or practically any other divisive issue, you need to understand historical settlement patterns and the lasting cultural fissures they established.”--Colin Woodward
Here's link to an article in Market Watch which provides more information to Colin Woodward recent book, and a follow-up article in a Tufts University (Massachusetts) magazine. It gives a sketch of the 11 "nations" and how he believes they got that way.
The first thing you have to do is throw out the state borders. As a resident of the state Oregon who has lived in both the Far West and Left Coast areas I can say there is a definite shift in political and even cultural hegemony when you cross over the Cascade Mountains that cut across the state from North to South. The Left Coast has its share of conservatism, but the Portland-Eugene-Salem metro areas are more in tune with the voters in "Yankeedom", the liberal-to-moderate New England/East Coast, 3,000 miles apart. Whereas if you are visiting places such as Klamath Falls and Bend Oregon on the "Far West" part of the same state you may feel you are closer to the more rural and conservative (and clannish) areas of the Rocky Mountain and Upper Midwest states. Folks in San Francisco and Los Angeles are more alike than some citizens who live closer in a geographical proximity to the respective cities in the Sacramento-Stockton part of the Central Valley, but there are differences (i.e., more of a Hispanic cultural force to the South, from the proximity to Mexico.)
Indeed the whole issue of international boundaries is less of a help on both North and South Borders. One living in Portland or Seattle and the liberal arts college and university towns to the south may well feel more akin to the politics of Vancouver, British Columbia, than to the eastern areas of the same state in the same nation. And surely many residents states like Idaho and Montana feel closer to the mining and ranching reaches of the Canadian Rocky Mountain provinces like Alberta than to the "Left Coast".
The American way of life will likely become more fractured if present trends in population diversity and income inequality spread. Our politicians will continue to try and "ride two horses" (or maybe three) at once in the great "Circus Maximus" that is the national arena. And more lucky pols some will just have to make one of these regions happy, and others (like the Obama Administration or any President afterward) will have to try to make the most of what little commonality there is on economic and social issues across the continent.
The institutions that thrive in this environment are not political, I would say, but rather the large international banking giants and the resource industries (oil, natural gas, shale, tar sands ) and those who make military hardware. The upper tiers of business likely have long accepted that the lines on a political map of North America are often just that----lines, and, allowing for some exceptions within these regions, more indicative of the nation than any official boundaries.