One Nation, 300+ Million American-Americans

This first map is from FiveThirtyEight.com. They did a great job with the election projections. Since so many problems in this country still revolve around racism and the south, it's interesting to see how progress goes on that front. As 538 explains:
The Democrats seem to be on the verge of quarantining the Republicans to a few, relatively electorally dry areas. As compared with 1992, there has been a net swing of at least 19 points to the Republicans in seven states: Kentucky, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, West Virginia, Wyoming and Arkansas. All of these states but Wyoming form a contiguous region, which we refer to as the "Highlands" region but which is more commonly called the Inland South...If you're going to have to sacrifice [the Dems, politically speaking] a particular region of the country, this is not a bad one to sacrifice.
The second map:
Matt Yglesias, June 11, 2008:
What's that a map of? Well, recently the Census Bureau started asking people about ethnicity and ancestry. So you might say you were "Irish" or "Italian" or "German" or "Chinese" or "Cuban" instead of just white or Asian or whatever. But about seven percent of people identified themselves as "American." And as you can see, that "American" bloc is really concentrated in Appalachia and the southern highlands. Webb's favorite ethnic group, in short, seems to be the ethnic group with the least ethnic consciousness.

The American-Americans, June 12, 2008:
Still, if you were to plot Scottish (and Ulster) immigration to the US on a map, you'd end up with something similar to the "American" map above. And that goes some way towards explaining why there's no significant Scottish political constituency in the United States. Equally, though some Scots and Ulster immigrants (the latter mainly Scots who'd been in Ulster for a generation or two) left for the New World involuntarily, many more did not. They were leaving for a reason and had little cause to look back with sentiment.

And of course, they left a long time ago (emigrants from post-WW1 Scotland, tended to head to Canda or New Zealand) and, being for the most part practical protestants, they did not so much assimilate into America as build it in the first place. No wonder, then, that despite the St Andrews' and Caledonian Societies scattered across America there's never been much of a Scots Lobby in American politics. The SNP, of course, would love it if there were such a lobby. But there are no collection tins being passed around Appalachian churches or in the bars of Columbia or Knoxville.

Equally, it's precisely because the descendents of these immigrants from lowland Scotland, Ulster (and the counties of northern England) consider themselves unhyphenated Americans that they have harboured, I'd suggest, suspicions of those more recent arrivals who consider themselves "ethnics" or otherwise hyphenated-Americans.

I don't know what exactly, if anything, can be done about this. I don't know that anything should be done except to understand what's going on in this country. It's tempting to see these people as backward and to keep them politically marginalized.

But... Perhaps it would behoove more of us to identify ourselves as simply Americans, and drop all the hyphenated qualifiers. Rather than having this group of people politically 'quarantined' as not 'fitting in', we should be expanding the number of people who consider themselves simply Americans. It should rightfully be an identification full and rich and encompassing all the talents and diversity of this nation, rather than a peculiarity of the Inland South. After all, those ancient Highland Scots didn't make it so. They clung to something basic while others accrued layers of complexity onto the American identity, for purposes of distinguishing themselves as different.

And perhaps some people in America cling a little too tightly to their hyphenated (ie: special) status. Please don't misunderstand. I think it's great that people preserve traditions of their heritage, and give their children family names, and enjoy special holidays and cuisine, and all the customs that go along with our family histories. I'm all for that, and my family does those things. But those things should not override our common interests as Americans, and when they start to do that, it's time to think about loyalties and get one's priorities straight. If you live here, and your kids go to school here, and you work here, and you pay taxes here, and you plan to stay here, and your relatives are buried here; then you need to put this country's interests ahead of any other country's interests. Period.

I'm not defending the racist baloney that comes out of this dark red swath of our country, because it makes me sick. But I strongly prefer when people are loyal to this country. That's how I was brought up, and I appreciate it when others share that value. It's a good value, and it's exactly the value which has been corrupted in insidious ways, leading us to the malignant situation where Israeli dual nationals, for instance, have ensconced themselves throughout our government in the highest echelons. If we had more jealously guarded our identity as Americans as a precious and valuable thing, the current situation could not have progressed to this perilous state.

Unfortunately, skilled manipulators can transform good things into something ugly. A healthy sense of nationalism can morph into jingoism, as we have seen. But to over correct that trend is also an error. We have to find the solid ground to stand on, and that requires everyone in this country to share just one single priority: the national interest of the United States. Not a particular region, or state, or ethnic group; but the interest of all 300+ million of us. Obviously -- not an easy thing to do, and that's why we elect leaders. But it is easy for each person to make the commitment in his or her own heart to put this nation's interest ahead of all other loyalties, in a mature way, which necessarily means that sometimes you won't be happy with certain decisions. That's the price of living in a great big country. A generosity of spirit made America great once before, and it would still work if we but embraced it and reclaimed it for ourselves. But! Everyone has to do it together, or else some groups of people will take advantage of others. That can no longer be overlooked or tolerated if we are to survive as a nation.

This is the new wisdom we must take from our bitter suffering. Adam and Eve were tossed out of Paradise after eating from the Tree of Knowledge. Just so, we bit the apple, and we're out in the cold. We all know about evil now, don't we? We can't go forward anymore in American la-la land where anything goes. This time, when we rebuild America, things have to be different. We all have to be American-Americans.


MarcLord said...

man, I was so addicted to 538, and they were sooo kick-ass. Thank god nate silver set that up, it helped cut down my pre-election anxiety level down by about 75%.

I'm calling myself an American again. For years after 9/11 I traveled internationally, and when people asked me where I was from, I told them "Seattle." Which worked really well because of the WTO riots here in 1999. You could just feel the change in the way people treated you, as an American. Now people are starting to fly Old Glory in Seattle.

Btw, there's a great, great book about this Scots-Irish area called Deer Hunting With Jesus. It really helped with my understanding, not to mention where I grew up (in the Adirondacks).

A. Peasant said...

I love Joe Bageant, too. The whole flag thing has been really tough, and I agree that seems to have passed somewhat. I'm still amazed when I see people with W stickers on their cars, though. They just won't let it go.

MarcLord said...

Wow. Didn't know you'd been Bageanted.

I also have a suspicion you've read Mike Ruppert. ?

A. Peasant said...

Oh yes. In 2004. The year I really began to grasp how deep the doo doo.

MarcLord said...

I was in lower Manhattan on 9/11.

Ruppert's book was, for my wife and me, an ugly confirmation to what our common senses and noses had already told us.

Even so, Rubicon was very difficult to read because it stamped out the part of me that could say, "Well, maybe you're just paranoid, surely they wouldn't et cetera." And yet I was the one in the bar who, when they showed pictures of all the hijackers on the news that night, said "Something's very wrong here."

So I can't really blame people who deride the 9/11 "Troofer" movement--their subconscious minds are just protecting them. It would be too much for a people to process, and remain a nation.

A. Peasant said...

You are absolutely right about people rejecting the conspiracy facts to protect their sanity. To face the truth about this country is to suffer a death, a bitter, bitter death, with all the accompanying stages of mourning and deep depression. It totally sucks, and it rips you away from the life and future you thought you had and plants you in the 'conspiracy' world, where nobody wants to be. Be grateful your wife at least went with you through the gauntlet. It's much more complicated when your friends and loved ones 'don't want to know.' Sorry you had to experience it live, but you know, the people in NY -- there does not appear to be a lot of dust on that shelf about these matters. Clinging to fantasies is not a luxury that everyone could afford over the years.

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