One of the most interesting questions in the great experiment that is the United States of America, now in its 235th year, is why the nation survives, prevails, and even thrives when at times it appears there is so little we as citizens have in common, and so little we agree on.
As citizens most of us profess our love for America. But what do we love about our nation, and what affection do we share?
The U.S. is ethnically and culturally one of the world’s most diverse countries. Whereas Korea is the most homogeneous country in the world—it is statistically 100 percent Korean (Japan and Portugal are close behind at 99 percent)—the bulk of the U.S. population has its ancestry in 17 different countries: German 15.2 percent, African American 12.9, Irish 10.9, English 8.7, Mexico 7.3, Italian 5.6, French 3.9, Other Hispanic 3.6, Polish 3.2, Scottish 1.7, Dutch 1.6, Norwegian 1.6, Native American 1.5, Swedish 1.4, Puerto Rican 1.2, Russian 0.9, and Chinese 0.9.
Although America is for the most part nominally Christian (78.4 percent), there is great diversity in Christian tradition (51.3 percent Protestant, 23.9 percent Catholic) and strength of devotion. The largest Protestant group is now evangelical (26.3 percent). Other faith groups: Jewish, 1.7 percent; Buddhist, .7 percent; Muslim, .6 percent; Hindu, .4 percent. About 10 percent are atheist, agnostic, or non-religious and non-affiliated.
Most political issues are divided about 50-50. In elections, 52 percent is a landslide. Political discourse has sharpened and become more personal and insulting.
The fragmentation of a nation can be dangerous at any time, but even more so in a post-9/11 environment. Can such a country defend itself against its enemies, foreign and domestic?
I have been writing a novel for the last six years that uses these questions and national characteristics as a context, weaving the stories of 15 Americans into a national story of perseverance and triumph. Called Americans, the novel will be released on this blog throughout 2011, with a new section to be posted each week. Access the Table of Contents by clicking the Amercians: A Novel button on the Rooftop title bar.
While the entire book is in draft form, I’m still writing and would like to have your thoughts, both on the questions of stability in the light of American diversity, and on character and story development throughout the year.
I hope you enjoy reading Americans as much as I am writing it. Start today with the Prologue.