American Futures Update: Nation Building at Home

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OK, that headline is my attempt at a transition from the past few days of Syria-related items to our ongoing American Futures exploration. I've just put up a new item on our map-based "Geoblog" site, which I hope you'll find interesting. It shows off our fancy Esri mapping software to good advantage (it looks better if you click "wide view"), and it illustrates one of the themes we've already been impressed by in a month of travel. That is the way the structural legacy-oddities of American self-government, which we're so familiar with on the national level (filibuster, gerrymanders), have a local effect too -- and how people have coped with them.

This screenshot at right, of Holland, Michigan and its surrounding areas, gives you an idea of the patterns I am talking about: the mismatch between city or township borders (in blue and brown), and school district areas (in purple), and the surprising effects this can have. I won't say more about it here, but the post does, and some of the ramifications. For the record, the Holland picture at the top has nothing to do with schools; it's just a reminder of the lakeside life that, along with manufacturing, is an important part of the city's life and identity.

Also on the Labor Day theme, my wife has shamed me into one more Holland picture. This is as I was stepping out of the small Our Brewery, a few doors down from the more famous New Holland Brewery, where I was carrying a high-test IPA for myself in my right hand and a few milder samples for her in my left. Her point was that this is the happiest she has ever seen me look. Almost as happy as Ta-Nehisi Coates has looked in France.

Before (or after) you go try a beer, I hope you'll check out this new post. Tee-totalers too. Happy Labor Day weekend.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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