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American Character - Ch. 3: The Rival Americans 
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 American Character - Ch. 3: The Rival Americans
American Character - Ch. 3: The Rival Americans

Please use this thread to discuss the above chapter.



Wed Aug 21, 2019 10:40 pm
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Post Re: American Character - Ch. 3: The Rival Americans
Woodard's map of 11 nations is not very gratifying on an older Kindle. Here it is in glorious color. I'll reserve comment until I'm finished the chapter.

Image


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Sat Sep 07, 2019 9:49 am
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Post Re: American Character - Ch. 3: The Rival Americans
I don't have anything to say about the particulars of Woodard's division of the country into these political families. I'm sure there could be other configurations proposed by knowledgeable people. The scheme does do a better job of classification and explanation than red state/blue state or urban/rural. Looking at my experience in three of these "countries," I can see that Woodard is right that they are distinct, and that the distinctness has historical roots. It's helpful for me to think about this history when I look at the differences between me, a transplant from Yankeedom, and the native residents of Greater Appalachia. A degree of cultural relativity is introduced, which in this case I think is a good thing. Understanding where the political conservatism comes from makes me less reactive to it, on issues such as guns and individual liberty.

Because our name is the United States of America, and because we are the world's longest-lasting democracy, I've been conditioned to think of our country as less fragmented than it probably is, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary!



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Tue Sep 17, 2019 7:26 am
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Post Re: American Character - Ch. 3: The Rival Americans
This study of regional identity in the USA illustrates some key themes in historical character and cultural evolution. Sensitivity to initial conditions is an idea from complexity theory. In culture, initial cultural conditions, such as attitudes to state, community, economy and religion, create boundaries that give order to the chaotic direction of subsequent life, creating dependency on the initial path.

These factors are especially important in modern settler communities like America and Australia, where the introduced values, ideals and assumptions held by colonising founders have immense influence, often beyond what seems rational. The society has inertia and momentum that holds it within the causal patterns generated at the time when the original canvas is untouched.

Just as the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, so too the single step sets the direction and pace for the journey.

Reading this chapter makes me notice some big differences between the USA and Australia. The US was settled mainly by free communities escaping persecution, whereas Australia was settled as a penal colony of the British State. So the idea of restricted government that is held so strongly in America's genetic identity is far less prominent in Australia.

Also, the Mayflower period of the English reformation created a religious idealism in American DNA, whereas Australia was settled in 1788, when the sceptical empirical ideas of the scientific enlightenment were a major part of the framework of explorers like Captain Cook.

As Heraclitus said, character is fate.


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Wed Sep 25, 2019 3:22 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: American Character - Ch. 3: The Rival Americans
At first the eleven nations idea seemed a little sketchy to me. Each "region" is a glorified label that is definitely more specific than "liberals" and "conservatives" but still just labels that would be hard to pin on actual people. For example if you went and talked to an "Appalachian" would they agree with the following:

Quote:
If Appalachian people see the world as a battleground in which only the fittest will survive, the Deep Southern oligarchy believes those battles were fought centuries ago, and that their families won. To the victors—society’s fittest—therefore go the spoils.


But the deeper I get into the book, the eleven nations idea becomes more applicable and useful for discussion. A true "Appalachian" may be difficult to find, but I can see that many of the political currents swirling around in the early years of our country's existence would have set things in motion for the journey that Robert discusses above.

And odd as it may seem, I can relate to the Midlands' nation idea which "shares the Yankee belief that society should be organized to benefit ordinary people, but rejects top-down government intervention . . . and where ethnic and ideological purity have never been a priority, government has been seen as an unwelcome intrusion, and political opinion has been moderate, even apathetic."

That's sort of me in a nutshell. And I was born in the Chicago suburbs too.

As such, Woodard's thesis goes a long way toward explaining why we can't seem to agree on much, except perhaps in times of existential crisis, such as the Great Depression and WWII. In today's climate we are more of a house divided. It can get very nasty sometimes.


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Thu Sep 26, 2019 11:30 am
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Post Re: American Character - Ch. 3: The Rival Americans
geo wrote:
At first the eleven nations idea seemed a little sketchy to me.


Each of the eleven nations are sketchy in this book, and deliberately so. Each of the eleven nations have been described extensively in his earlier book, "American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America". In fact, on Appalachia alone, he devotes two complete chapters, fifteen pages on its founding, and a further chapter on its role in American history. Reading this book first has given me a deeper understanding of "American Character".



Tue Oct 01, 2019 10:19 am
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