By Robert A. Vella
Everyone knows that North America is comprised of three large countries – Canada, Mexico, and the United States – plus the smaller nations of Central America. Everyone is also aware that the continent is primarily populated with descendant peoples from four linguistic categories: English-speaking, Spanish-speaking, French-speaking, and Native American. And, everyone has at least some understanding of the continual influx of many diverse ethnic groups from all over the world – Africa, Asia, Europe, and elsewhere. It is no surprise that America is often referred to as a “melting pot.”
However, these general cultural traits of North America paint a very diffuse picture. Great differences exist between the geographic regions and demographic distributions of North America. A typical resident of the U.S. west coast has much more in common with their Canadian neighbors to the north than with their fellow countrymen on the Gulf coast. These poorly appreciated cultural differences relate more to ideology and religion than to the more widely understood differences in language and ethnicity or even national identity.
Here’s a cultural map of North America you’ve probably never seen before:
If you’re seeing a correlation between the depicted cultural groupings and politics, it’s no coincidence. That’s probably why the author chose this color scheme. In fact, politics plays a prominent role in the ideological and religious makeup of North America. It helps to explain why the U.S. has experienced recurring episodes of internal division and polarization as is the case now.
In the following video, the author places North America’s persistent cultural differences in a political context. It’s quite fascinating and profoundly illuminating.
From C-SPAN – American Regionalism and Politics:
Colin Woodard, author of American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, spoke about the history of regionalism and cultural conflict in America. He used data from the 2008 and 2012 elections to dispelled “myths” about “red states” and “blue states” and explains away partisanship with the claim that our culture wars were inevitable. This public lecture in Iowa State University’s Memorial Hall was part of the 2015-16 National Affairs Series: When American Values Are in Conflict co-sponsored by Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication; National Affairs; Political Science; Technology, Globalization and Culture Series; and the Student Government funded Committee on Lectures.