America is Really 11 Nations. Which One Are You Living In?


What if you aren't an American after all, but a Left Coaster, a Deep Southerner, or a New Netherlander?

Journalist Colin Woodard has been making the rounds lately, from giving an interview to NPR to writing an article for Tufts Magazine, in order to promote the idea that the United States isn't so united after all. The below map, from Woodard's book, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, shows the cultural fault lines that divide our country and define the tenor and contentiousness of our national debates.

Image credit: Colin Woodard

Woodard believes that historical differences between America's regions, and the dominant cultures that developed because of them, are what prevent a national consensus on violence, gun control, and the use of deadly force.

Interestingly, Woodard's research points to the fact that our cultural divides almost never correspond to state lines. On his map, California's heavily populated coast is divided from its sparse and stoic inland areas, and Texas is torn asunder into the Deep South, Greater Appalachia, and a region along the Rio Grande that joins cities like El Paso and Laredo with northern Mexico. Thanks to their settlement by the Dutch, New York City and Philadelphia are divorced from their states and joined into a small coastal enclave, as is formerly-Francophone southern Louisiana.

It's no wonder, then, that as impossible as it's been to find a national consensus with regard to anything from stand-your-ground laws to capital punishment, state-level debates have been no less contentious. When it comes to issues of violence and punishment, all 11 of Woodard's American nations are going to have to compromise — at both the national and the state level.