American Futures Update: Nation Building at Home

By James Fallows

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Reinvention and resilience across the nation
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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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/08/american-futures-update-nation-building-at-home/279240/