Birds in Our Backyard This Afternoon

A sunny, breezy, mild spring afternoon (and some food in the feeders) brought these birds to our backyard this afternoon.

American Nations Within the American Nation

American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North Americaby Colin Woodard is a cultural history of the federation that we call the United States. See my last blog, where I gave my first (glowing) impressions.

I still highly recommend American Nations, for all the reasons I gave in my earlier report. But, after the last third of the book I had had enough of Woodard’s unrelenting criticism of the “Deep South,” and his fawning praise of “Yankeedom,” which are labels Woodard uses for two of the eleven North American “nations” he describes.

I certainly agree with many of Woodard’s negative characterizations of the Deep South. But, he is either incapable or unwilling to see any virtue in its culture. Does Woodard think that race relations in Mississippi are the same in 2014 as in 1964? Is he oblivious to the fact that the culture of the Deep South is, in fact, very much a product of the interaction between southern African-Americans and southern whites, and not simply an oppressive, authoritarian culture imposed by Deep Southern oligarchs? Is Woodard capable of entertaining the idea that at least some of the positive changes in race relations in the Deep South were made possible by positive traits in that culture? Or does he think that those changes are entirely the result of unwilling acceptance by southern whites of the agenda imposed on them by Yankeedom? Although I agree with Woodard that it took intervention by the Yankee-led federal government (think, for example, Massachusetts-born President Kennedy and his attorney general brother, Robert) to force the South to begin to end segregation in the 1960s and 1970s, I contend that the subsequent progress in this region owes at least part of its success to qualities deeply embedded in the shared culture of Deep South whites and African-Americans – for example, hospitality, neighborliness, and the deep Christian faith of many in its population.

Conversely, among his descriptions of enlightened Yankeedom and its commitment to making the world a better place, Woodard fails to mention, much less explain, events such as the busing violence and riots in Boston in the 1970s, or how segregationist George Wallace could win the Democratic presidential primary in Michigan in 1972. Obviously, there are many powerful factors influencing politics in American over the past forty years of which the regional conflicts between the eleven “nations” that comprise the USA are just one set.

Despite these shortcomings, I found Woodard’s descriptions of those eleven nations and their alliances and conflicts fascinating.  I highly recommend  American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America.