I’ve found a delightful surprise in the bookstore: “American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America.”
This new book (it was published September 30th) is a successor to Joel Garreau’s The Nine Nations of North America (1981) which has been a subject of much discussion on this website. It seems that we weren’t alone here in writing about the United States and Canada as dysfunctional multinational federations which are giving way to emerging ethnostates.
According to Woodward, there are 11 regional subnations in North America:
(1) New France – Quebec and Louisiana.
(2) Greater Appalachia – Scots-Irish Upper South/South Midwest.
(3) Deep South – Core Confederacy.
(4) Tidewater – Eastern Virginia, Northeast North Carolina, East Maryland, South Delaware.
(5) Yankeedom – New England, New York State, North Pennsylvania, Northwest Indiana, Western Reserve Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Eastern Dakotas, Far North Illinois, Eastern South Dakota, Eastern North Dakota.
(6) New Netherland – NYC, North New Jersey, Southwest Connecticut.
(7) Midlands – Ontario, Central North Dakota, Central South Dakota, Iowa, Eastern Nebraska, Central Kansas, Western Oklahoma, Northwest Missouri, Central Illinois, North Indiana, North Ohio, Central and Southeast Pennsylvania, South New Jersey, North Delaware, North Maryland.
(8) El Norte – North Mexico, South Arizona, South Texas, East New Mexico, South Colorado, Southeast California.
(9) Left Coast – Synonymous with Ecotopia.
(10) Far West – Synonymous with Empty Quarter. Montana, Wyoming, North Colorado, Western North Dakota, Western South Dakota, Western Nebraska, Western Kansas, Utah, North Arizona, Nevada, Idado, East California, Western Oregon, Western Washington, Alberta, Saskatchewan, East British Columbia, West Manitoba.
(11) First Nation – Indian region of North Canada
In 2008, with the U.S. divided between red states and blue states, then-candidate Barack Obama called for unity over division, a common shout-out among politicians and others determined to preserve America’s under- siege, allegedly shared values. Yet such calls ignore the fact that there are no shared “American values.” We’ve always been divided. And not truly along state lines.
America’s most essential and abiding divisions stem from the fact that the U.S. is a federation composed of the whole or parts of 11 disparate regional cultures — each exhibiting conflicting agendas and the characteristics of nationhood — and which respect neither state nor international boundaries, bleeding over the borders of Canada and Mexico as readily as they divide California, Texas, Illinois or Pennsylvania. The differences between them shaped the scope and nature of the American Revolution, the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution and, most tragically, the Civil War. Since 1960, the fault lines between these nations have been growing wider, fueling culture wars, constitutional struggles and those ever- present pleas for unity.
These “nations” have been with us all along.
In this book, Garreau’s “Ecotopia” has become Woodward’s Left Coast, Garreau’s MexAmerica is Woodward’s El Norte, Garreau’s Empty Quarter is Woodward’s “Far West” minus the Indian sections of North Canada, Garreau’s Dixie has been subdivided into Tidewater, Deep South, New France, and Greater Appalachia, Garreau’s New England has been expanded across the Deep North to the Dakotas, Garreau’s Quebec has been hitched to South Louisiana as New France, South Florida isn’t addressed, and Garreau’s Foundry has been cannibalized and reduced to “Midlands.”
The greatest mystery that strikes me is how Dixie has been subdivided into Deep South, Tidewater, New France, and Greater Appalachia. After flipping through the book, my first impression is that there is an intelligent explanation for this.
“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 their own religious, political, and ethnographic characteristics. Throughout the colonial period, they regarded one another as competitors – for land, settlers, and capital – and occasionally as enemies, as was the case during the English Civil War, when Royalist Virginia stood against Puritan Massachusetts, or when New Netherland and New France were invaded and occupied by English-speaking soldiers, statesmen, and merchants. Only when London began treating its colonies as a single unit – and enacted policies threatening to nearly all – did some of these distinct societies briefly come together to win a revolution and create a joint government. Nearly all of them would seriously consider leaving the Union in the eighty-year period after Yorktown; several went to war to do so in the 1860s. All of these centuries-old cultures are still with us today, and have spread their people, ideas, and influence across mutually exclusive bands of the continent. There isn’t and never has been one America, but rather several Americas.
Woodward accurately explains the last 150 years of American history as a clash between a “Dixie bloc” and a “Yankeedom bloc.” The various subregions within Dixie such as New France, Greater Appalachia, and Tidewater have consolidated since the demise of slavery in the War Between the States.
I have long made this argument:
“The United States had Founding Fathers, to be sure, but they were the grandfathers, great-grandfathers, or great-great grandfathers of the men who met to sign the Declaration of Independence and to draft our first two constitutions. Our true Founders didn’t have an “original intent” we can refer back to in challenging times; they had original intents. . .
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.
The War Between the States and the “Second Reconstruction” (a term explicitly used by Woodward) is explained as a fundamental collision between the Dixie bloc and the Yankeedom bloc.
“The Deep South was founded by Barbados slave lords as a West Indies-style slave society, a system so cruel and despotic that it shocked even its seventeenth-century English contemporaries. For most of American history, the region has been the bastion of white supremacy, aristocratic privilege, and a version of classical Republicanism modeled on the slave states of the ancient world, where democracy was a privilege of the few and enslavement the natural lot of the many. It remains the least democratic of the nations, a one-party entity where race remains the primary determinant of one’s political affiliations.
Beginning from its Charleston beachhead, the Deep South spread apartheid and authoritarianism across the Southern lowlands, eventually encompassing most of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and Louisiana; western Tennessee; and the southeastern parts of North Carolina, Arkansas, and Texas. Its territorial ambitions in Latin America frustrated, in the 1860s it dragged the federation into a horrific war in an attempt to form its own nation-state, backed by reluctant allies in Tidewater and some corners of Appalachia. After successfully resisting a Yankee-led occupation, it became the center of the states’ rights movement, racial segregation, and labor and environmental deregulation. It’s also the wellspring of African-American culture, and four decades after it was forced to allow blacks to vote, it remains politically polarized on racial grounds. Having forged an uneasy “Dixie” coalition with Appalachia and Tidewater in the 1870s, the Deep South is locked in an epic battle with Yankeedom and its Left Coast and New Netherland allies for the future of the federation.
There is a lot of truth in this book – especially as it relates to the “Ecotopia” subnation of the West Coast, and the peculiarities of Yankeedom. We are going to spend at least a week discussing this and comparing and contrasting American Nations with the Nine Nations of North America.
What’s the Left Coast? This is the only place where “West Coast White Nationalism” could possibly thrive:
A Chile-shaped nation pinned between the Pacific and the Cascade and Coast mountain ranges, the Left Coast extends in a strip from Monterey, California, to Juneau, Alaska, including four decidedly progressive metropolises: San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver. A wet region of staggering natural beauty, it was originally colonized by two groups: merchants, missionaries, and woodsmen from New England (who arrived by sea and controlled the towns) and farmers, prospectors, and fur traders from Greater Appalachia (who arrived by wagon and dominated the countryside). Originally slated by Yankees to become a “New England on the Pacific: – and the target of a dedicated Yankee missionary effort – the Left Coast retained a strong strain of New England intellectualism and idealism even as it embraced a culture of individual fulfillment.
Today it combines the Yankee faith in good government and social reform with a commitment to individual self-exploration and discovery, a combination that has proven to be fecund. The Left Coast has been the birthplace of the modern environmental movement and the global information revolution (it is home to Microsoft, Google, Apple, Twitter, and Silicon Valley), and the cofounder (along with New Netherland) of the gay rights movement, the peace movement, and the cultural revolution of the 1960s. Ernest Callenbach’s 1975 sci-fi novel Ecotopia imagined the U.S. portion of the region as having broken off into a separate, environmentally stable nation at odds with the resent of the continent. The modern secessionist movement seeks to create the sovereign state of Cascadia by adding in British Columbia and southern Alaska as well, creating a “bioregional cooperative commonwealth.” The closest ally of Yankeedom, it battles constantly against the libertarian-corporate agenda of its neighbor, the Far West.
Garreau and Woodward are both in agreement that the American North is several different places: it is Yankeeland, Nation of Immigrants/Midlands/Foundry, Ecotopia/Left Coast, and the New York City metropolitan area which is a city-state.
What is Yankeeland?
Yankeedom was founded on the shores of Massachusetts Bay by radical Calvinists as a new Zion, a religious utopia in the New England wilderness. From the outset it was a culture that put great emphasis on education, local political control, and the pursuit of the “greater good” of the community, even if it required individual self denial. Yankees have the greatest faith in the potential of government to improve people’s lives, tending to see it as an extension of the citizenry, and a vital bulwark against the schemes of grasping aristocrats, corporations, and outside powers. For more than four centuries, Yankees have sought to build a more perfect society here on Earth through social engineering, relatively extensive citizen involvement in the political process, and the aggressive assimilation of foreigners. Settled by stable, educated families, Yankeedom has always had a middle-class ethos and considerable respect for intellectual achievement. Its religious zeal has waned over time, but not its underlying drive to improve the world and the set of moral and social values that scholars have sometimes described as “secular Puritanism.”
From its New England core, Yankee culture spread with its settlers across upper New York State, the northern strips of Pennsylvan ia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa; parts of the eastern Dakotas; and on up into Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the Canadian Maritimes. It has been locked in nearly perpetual combat with the Deep South for control of the federal government since the moment such a thing existed.
Yankeeland’s greatest achievement since the Emancipation Proclamation and the Progressive Movement and the New Deal and the Civil Rights Movement and the Great Society … was the election of Barack Hussein Obama, our first black president, in the year 2008.
For 150 years, Yankeeland has been opposed by Dixie which has resisted every single one of these utopian social engineering schemes from abolitionism to civil rights to women’s liberation to gay marriage.
What is the Cracker Nation? That’s where the Hoosier Nation is located.
Greater Appalachia was founded in the early eighteenth century by wave upon wave of rough, bellicose settlers from the war-ravaged borderlands of Northern Ireland, northern England, and the Scottish lowlands. Lampooned by writers, journalists, filmmakers, and television producers as “rednecks,” hillbillies,” crackers,” and “white trash,” these clannish Scots-Irish, Scots, and north English frontiersmen spread across the highland South and on into the southern tiers of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois; the Arkansas and Missouri Ozarks; the eastern two-thirds of Oklahoma; and the Hill Country of Texas, clashing with Indians, Mexicans, and Yankees as they migrated.
In the British Isles, this culture had formed in a state of near-constant war and upheaval, fostering a warrior ethic and a deep commitment to individual liberty and personal sovereignty. Intensely suspicious of aristocrats and social reformers alike, these American Borderlanders despised Yankee teachers, Tidewater lords, and Deep Southern aristocrats. In the Civil War much of the region fought for the Union, with secession movements in western Virginia (creating West Virginia), eastern Tennessee, and northern Alabama. During Reconstruction the region resisted the Yankee effort to liberate African slaves, driving it into a lasting alliance with its former enemies: the overlords of the Tidewater and Deep Southern lowlands of Dixie. The Borderlander’s combative culture has provided a large proportion of the nation’s military, from officers like Andrew Jackson, Davy Crockett, and Douglas MacArthur to the enlisted men fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. They also gave the continent bluegrass and country music, stock car racing, and Evangelical fundamentalism. Greater Appalachia’s people have long had a poor awareness of their cultural origins. One scholar of the Scots-Irish has called them “the people with no name.” When U.S. census takers ask Appalachian people what their nationality or ethnicity is, they almost always answer “American” or even “Native American.”
Woodward seems to envision a late twenty-first century world where North America has broken apart like the Roman Empire and national lines are redrawn around the subnations which emerge from the wreckage like France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.
Let’s get started!