11 August 2015

Suspicious of "Yankee Social Engineers"

A few years ago, author Colin Woodard wrote a book titled American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America.

Here is how a recent article in Business Insider about Woodard's book describes my region, Appalachia:
Colonized by settlers from the war-ravaged borderlands of Northern Ireland, northern England, and the Scottish lowlands, Greater Appalachia is stereotyped as the land of hillbillies and rednecks. Woodard says Appalachia values personal sovereignty and individual liberty and is "intensely suspicious of lowland aristocrats and Yankee social engineers alike." It sides with the Deep South to counter the influence of federal government. Within Greater Appalachia are parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, [and, I would add, western Virginia] Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Indiana, Illinois, and Texas. [Emphasis mine.]
The BI article further states this about "Yankeedom":
Woodard notes that Yankees have a "Utopian streak."
Is that ever an understatement. I would add, as evidenced by many "Yankeedom" influenced Civil War blogs, that they also have a "Puritanical streak" which motivates them to force their vision on Utopia on the rest of us. Moreover, they love to use government power to accomplish their Utopia. These folks do not value personal liberty and sovereignty to the extent their competing regions do. That's really not arguable.

While Woodard's "regions" could be further dissected and nuanced, I believe his overall characterization as described in the BI article is quite accurate [I've not read the book]. You can look at the impact these various regions and worldviews have had on American history going all the way back to the colonial period. 

It is part of the cause for the War Between the States. Though slavery was certainly central to that conflict, the underlying fact that the Deep South and Appalachia were, and still are, "intensely suspicious of lowland aristocrats and Yankee social engineers" cannot be ignored as a major contributing factor. Those that continue to suggest that the WBTS was ALL about slavery make a very shallow and simplified argument. Some do so out of ignorance, others to advance an agenda. Even progressive, anti-Confederate historian David Blight has noted that "the Confederacy is to this day the greatest conservative resistance to federal authority in American history". 

So, if this region remains "the greatest conservative resistance to federal authority in American history" then it stands to reason that it's rebellion and anti-authoritarian bent was and is rooted in something much deeper that a desire to maintain chattel slavery.
You can also listen to an interview with the author here, at NPR. I'm going to attempt to address this topic more in an upcoming post. I find it a fascinating subject.

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