Editorial Page

How Well Do You Know Your World Map?

There is a widely accepted global view that many young Americans have no idea where most countries are on a map.

The world shouldn’t take that personally.

In a study completed in 2006, the well-respected news leader CNN.com recites, “The study found that less than six months after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, 33 percent (young Americans) could not point out Louisiana on a U.S. map.

The study, which surveyed 510 young Americans from December 17 to January 20, showed that 88 percent of those questioned could not find Afghanistan on a map of Asia despite widespread coverage of the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 and the political rebirth of the country.”

As an American I possess a college degree, worked for a newspaper, have traveled to two foreign countries, researched myriads more but I must admit given a blank global map and asked to name and locate at least 30 countries on the globe, I doubt that I would score above 50%.

I do know where Louisiana is. I was born in Texas. They live next door to each other.

Which raises the question; why are so many Americans lacking in knowledge about their world neighbors?

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In the well written information source .realclearworld.com, the author George Friedman relates, “The United States’ geography, obviously, shapes American thinking about the world. The European Peninsula is crowded with peoples and nation-states. In a matter of hours you can find yourself in a country with a different language and religion and a history of recent war with your own. Americans can travel thousands of miles using their own language, experiencing the same culture and rarely a memory of war. Northwestern Europe is packed with countries.

The northeastern United States is packed with states. Passing from the Netherlands to Germany is a linguistic, cultural change with historical memories. Traveling from Connecticut to New York is not. When Europeans speak of their knowledge of international affairs, their definition of international is far more immediate than that of Americans.”

The noted author continues.

“It is not that Americans are disengaged from the world, but rather that the world appears disengaged from them. At the heart of the matter is geography.

The Americans, like the British before them, use the term “overseas” to denote foreign affairs. The American reality is that most important issues, aside from Canada and Mexico, take place across the ocean and the ocean reasonably is seen as a barrier that renders these events part of a faraway realm. Terrorists can cross the oceans, as can nuclear weapons, and both can obliterate the barriers the oceans represent. But al Qaeda has not struck in a while, nuclear threats are not plausible at the moment, and things overseas simply don’t seem to matter.”

In a more recent 2011 article written by Natalie Avon for CNN focusing in on why more Americans don’t travel abroad she states, “The numbers tell the story: Of the 308 million-plus citizens in the United States, 30% have passports.

There were 61.5 million trips outside the United States in 2009, down 3% from 2008, according to the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries. About 50% of those trips were to either Mexico or Canada, destinations that didn’t require a passport until 2007.[adToAppearHere]

Despite the climbing number of American passports in circulation, 30% is still low compared to Canada’s 60% and the United Kingdom’s 75%.”

The article goes on to cite something that I have often heard from fellow citizens. America has it all anyway. The list of attractions is endless.

There are majestic mountains, moonlit oceans, the Grand Canyon, crystal blue lakes, spiritual forests, wide open spaces, cosmopolitan cities within driving distance, major league sports, restaurants from around the world (with servers that speak English), five star hotels, Disneyland, wonderful cities like Las Vegas where you can sin and no one will throw you in jail (like Dubai), well paved road and much more.

The above is the short list.

“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable”……..Clifton Fadiman

My personal take speaks to a few more reasons.[adToAppearHere]

There is a consensus among my circle that if you make a mistake or someone plants an illegal substance on you that you can be thrown into a dark, dank, horrible foreign jail where no one will ever see or hear from you again.

For cautionary reasons or simply to sell tickets, the movie industry has feed upon that fear. Who can forget the films Broke Down Palace, Hostel or the ultimate nightmare entitled Midnight Express.

The other reason often given is that Americans are not going to be treated well.

I was having dinner in Las Vegas with a group of female competitors after spending all day at Femwin’s June, 2014 event and one famous grappler shared a story of how she traveled all the way to England and at the airport, once they saw some of her BDSM toys, they sent her back home to America.

Now that’s the progressive UK for crying out loud.

Imagine what could happen in a country where they don’t speak the English, are void of a translator and something goes terribly wrong?

I sense one of the strongest reasons Americans mostly vacation in the States, though few want to say it out loud, is that you have to be interested to want to risk going to a destination. When you were in high school, how many of you knew where the best looking girls or guys lived in the neighborhood?

If a country offers a real promise of romance, financial gain, a career or a superb place to retire, that destination most likely will receive a lot of looks.

The 2011 CNN article cites another significant reason that seems cultural.

Quoting topical everywhere.com author Gary Arndt, they explain, “Many Americans follow the same pattern: work hard in high school, go to college, accrue a load of debt and get a job right away to work it off. The United States doesn’t promote taking a year off between major life phases like New Zealand or the United Kingdom.

Up until recently, having a gap year was a job killer, so you chose work, and that work, work, work mentality makes it much harder to leave.

A one-year break in your resume could make an American employer question your commitment to a company, whereas not taking a gap year in New Zealand would be considered crazy. We’re not a travel culture. Countries are travel cultures when they put more of an emphasis on leisure time, and Americans tend to choose money over leisure time.”

All of these of course may sound like excuses and what could motivate change on a massive scale is another discussion.

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Since our audience of female wrestlers tends to be an aberration and extensively travel the globe, I sense having a destination that promises real tangible benefits (paid wrestling assignments, sessions and contacts to show you around) over possible ones is the starting place.

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Sources: brainyquote.com, Wikipedia, CNN.com, everywhere.com, fciwomenswrestling.com, fciwomenswrestling2.com, FCI Elite Competitor, femcompetitor.com, photos thank you Wikimedia Commons.

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