What are we becoming a nation of now?

In Jonathan Haidt’s TED talk, “How common threats can make common political ground,” he mentions an influential New York Times article about how people with college degrees are more likely to get and stay married compared with those without college degrees.

At about 15:20 in the talk, Haidt says: “We are becoming a nation of just two classes.”

And I got to thinking about that phrase, “become a nation of…” It puts the reader at the moment of a transition from an assumed past to a specified future. A Google Books search reveals that we have become a nation of many things over the years:

1805: Becoming a nation of free men.

1815: becoming a nation of drunkards.

1822: becoming a nation of castes.

1840: becoming a nation of bull-dogs.

1856: becoming a nation of music lovers in the legitimate sense of the term.

1905: becoming a nation of dreamers, and then, in the next sentence, becoming a nation of money lovers and materialists.

1905: becoming a nation of physicians or even of lawyers.

1944:  fast becoming a nation of neurotics.

1953: becoming a nation of coffee drinkers instead of one of tea drinkers, like England.

1969: becoming a nation of two societies— one white and one black— separate and unequal. (from this awesome issue of Ebony:)

ebony1969

1977: becoming a nation of the elderly.

1985: Becoming a Nation of Readers.

1987: becoming a NATION OF ILLITERATES.

1988: becoming a nation of hamburger stands, and, in the same sentence, becoming a nation of management consultants, doctors, software designers, and international bankers.

1989: Becoming a Nation of Burger Flippers?

2008: becoming a nation of joiners.

2008: becoming a nation of orthorexics (people with an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating)

3 Comments

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3 responses to “What are we becoming a nation of now?

  1. Pingback: You got your immigrant in my interbreeding! | Family Inequality

  2. “one white and one black— separate and unequal” was not Ebony 1969. It was the Kerner Commission 1968. The task for this government commission was to report on the causes of the “civil disorders” (what most people called riots or race riots) of the previous year(s) in Detroit, Newark, and elsewhere.
    And in 1961 there was the best-seller A Nation of Sheep.
    (Of course I know these references only from studying history.)

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    • To get on the list, it had to be in Google books with the phrase, “becoming a nation of…” It looks like the Kerner Commission wrote, “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white–separate and unequal” (http://www.eisenhowerfoundation.org/docs/kerner.pdf). So it’s not included. If you follow the link it doesn’t look like Ebony exactly credits it, just listing it as “progress report for 1968.” I like “Nation of Sheep,” too — a phrase recently favored by white supremacists.

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