Moralistic busybodies. They’ve made a comeback in recent years. It’s understandable. They’re an American tradition, after all. ‘Totalitarian theocracy’ is a phrase more commonly associated with Saudi Arabia or ISIS today, but some of the earliest colonies in what eventually became the United States fit the bill. And while they’ve lost their religion over the centuries, they haven’t lost their penchant for sanctimonious posturing and coercive authoritarianism. The spirit of the Puritans of New England lives on.
Back in the 1630s the Puritans settled Massachusetts Bay. Contrary to popular myth, they weren’t bastions of religious freedom. Sure, they were fleeing one sort of oppression in England, but they weren’t concerned so much about freedom of religion and conscience per se as they were about their own freedom – everyone else be damned. Essentially the Puritans wanted freedom from oppression in order to practice their own form of oppression against everyone else.
To be fair, the Puritans weren’t the only ones to contribute to modern American culture. As Colin Woodard argues in his book American Nations, Canada, the United States, and northern Mexico are primarily made up of eleven distinct cultures with roots in their original settlers. In each of these identifiable regions, the mindsets of their respective “founding fathers” live on. From the influence of the Spanish and mestizo culture in northern Mexico and the southern States (El Norte), the feudal French Catholics of New France, the conservative royalists and wannabe aristocracy in Virginia and the Carolinas (Tidewater), the utopian Puritans of New England (Yankeedom), the Dutch corporate traders and merchants of New Netherland (now New York), the Barbadian slave society of the Deep South, the libertarian Quakers of the Midlands, and the clan-based warrior culture of Greater Appalachia, to those that developed more recently in the 19th and 20th centuries: the Yankee-influenced “Left Coast” of individualists, activists, and entrepreneurs; the corporate and semi-dependent “Far West”; and the re-emerging “First Nation” in northern Canada, arguably representing North America’s earliest and now latest distinct cultures – they may share and cross borders, but they’re noticeably distinct from each other. (Mention must also go to the Polynesian culture of Hawaii and the Spanish Caribbean south Florida.)
So when talking about “Americans”, we should all be clear as to whom we’re really talking about. As a Canadian, it may be fun to poke fun at my southern neighbors (I believe the feeling is mutual), but culturally, I probably have more in common with my fellow Far Westerners in the States than I do with the Canadian Left Coast, or with Canada’s own Midlanders to the east. Here’s a map laying out the rough borders of these often vastly different cultures:
How do these nations vote? Here’s a map of the last U.S. presidential election by nation (note that many counties in each nation voted against their respective majorities, as you can see in this map):
american nations election map