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US: 2 Nations?

John Dolva

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An interesting article from Granma :


United States: two nations

Manuel E. Yepe

IN the mid-19th century, the Republican Party, representing the interests of nascent industrial capital in the North, won the military battle against the Southern Democratic Party, representing and defending the slave plantation and slavery itself.

However, the Southern institutions – including its religious system which justified slavery and defined whites as superior beings – did not disappear. The defeat suffered by the South profoundly affected its society which, from that point, perceived the North as alien, secularizing and foreign: an enemy that had to be fought. The Civil War which ended for the North in 1865, was only just beginning for the South.

The above is an appreciation by Nelson P. Valdés, a Cuban academic resident in the United States for 40 years, in an email interview.

According to this expert on U.S. history, Valdés who, until his recent retirement, was a professor at the University of New Mexico, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by a Southerner in 1865 signified the first questioning of Northern power. And the same situation has continued up until today.

Since then the South has perceived itself as discriminated against by the power of the North. As family farms gradually disappeared (replaced by agribusinesses) those displaced ranchers opposed to the new capitalism – which, by paying low wages to Mexicans, made it impossible for the farmers to prosper – aligned themselves with the Southerners.

A Southern nationalism developed against the North. If one thinks of the United States as one single nation, this is not perceptible. But, in real terms, the country is made up of two nations with distinct dynamics, Professor Valdés emphasizes.

Those in the South were free traders because plantation owners in the South were dependent on cotton exports to Europe. Those of the North, who were industrializing, were protectionists, influenced by an ideology of self-employed work directed at depending on the labor of farmers in rural areas, with slaves or without them.

In the South, which extends geographically along the eastern coast to Virginia and reaches the doors of Washington, the plantation system dominated.

However, the military defeat of the South was not the defeat of the institutions of the South, nor of its ideology. The North became industrialized and over time (in this period) came to depend on finance, the banks and mortgages – given that industries disappeared with their export to the Third World. On the other hand, the South continued being agricultural until 1920, when large-scale oil drilling began in Texas, Louisiana and Alabama. So, it was in the South that, little by little, the powerful oil cartel developed.

In the South, where whites were in the majority poor but saw themselves as superior to the slaves, the Ku Klux Klan emerged in 1865. Its function was to de facto maintain what was prohibited by law. The prohibition on the black vote remained and only after another Northern intervention with federal troops 100 years later were the civil rights of African Americans legalized.

The nationalist and conservative ideology was founded in the South within a tradition of identifying with the past. After all, the founding fathers acknowledged slavery and did not question it! The original constitution permitted slavery.

The religious aspect should not be overlooked. The ideology of revenge has a basis within the religion of the Southern Baptists. God chooses one group in particular and, for the Southerners, they are the chosen people – as against the Northerners. The expansion of the country before and after the Civil War was led by Southerners. And the same thing happened in the border states with Canada – where it merged with a Lutheran tradition from Northern Europe with its own racist attitudes. Many Southerners also went to Alaska. The state of Utah is populated by Mormons, whose racist theology has a Southern basis originating in the right-wing tradition of Arizona.

Ethnic and African-American groups have been influenced by this ideology via the gospel of prosperity and security that this movement has emphasized since the 19th century.

According to the Southern optic, President Barack Obama represents Northern interests. He is a Northerner (from Chicago), an African American and allied to the world of finance – the three elements that unite the Southern right against the North.

Nelson P. Valdés believes that the points of view of these two poles of U.S. policies on relations with Cuba should be perceived on the basis of the fact that Southerners are conservative and, for that reason, opposed, to the point of hatred, to progressive political ideas. For their part, the Democrats of the North are not interested in wasting political capital on the Cuba issue. This translates into it being a non-issue in the framework of this national situation.

Moreover, "Cubans in government have not understood that there are two nations in the United States, with two foreign policies."

When there is talk in the United States of blue and red states, above all in an election period, this is a reference to two nations. And for Professor Valdés, the one that is growing is the South.

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