Friday, September 23, 2011

One Country, Many Nations?

I read a post by Tobias Buckell this morning that got me thinking. It seems that when ever I get into a conversation with someone who is not from the USA, I run into the perception that the United States is a single homogeneous entity (and unfortunately, that perception is largely shaped by "Friends" and "The Simpsons"). It's difficult to fully convey how diverse my country really is: that the West Coast is not like the East Coast, that opinions can vary greatly between urban and rural areas, and that sometimes people who grew up in the same country speaking the same language can barely understand each other (I had a fun time listening to a guy from Boston try to talk with a guy from Louisiana a few years ago).

"Pop", "Soda", and "Coke" by county.
In a lot of ways, the US can be thought of as an empire made up of many different countries, unified by a common currency, over-arching federal laws, and television. Common currency allows easy trade between regions, federal laws work to promote equality throughout the country, and television enables cross-cultural pollination and keeps American English from fracturing into a dozen dialects. I'm sure this concept has been around for a long time. It was first clearly stated to me in Neil Gaiman's novel American Gods. And after living in Washington State, Michigan, and Texas, the "one country, many nations" idea rings true. Climate, architecture, accent, industry and fashion all showed significant differences between those three locations. I found this image of emerging "mega-regions" from the America 2050 site particularly interesting:

I really like the term "Cascadia" for the Pacific Northwest.
Tobias Buckell has a few more charts on his blog that are worth a look.

So this has all been interesting to think about, but are there any conclusions that can be drawn from this line of thought? Off the top of my head:
  • Television is important to the health of our identity as a single country.
  • High-Speed Rail proposals have a pretty close correlation to these mega-regions
  • In-country tourism should be strongly encouraged so Americans can really understand all that it means to be an "American".

Any other thoughts or ideas? Sound off in the comments!

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