Sat 20 Apr, 2013 12:30 pm
The Ambassador in London of the Czech Republic (it's in Europe, near Poland and Germany) is concerned because many Americans, on the evidence of Twitter, seem to think that is where the Boston bombers came from. They actually came from Chechnya, a Russian republic 1700 miles away. This reminds me when I had to speak from Britain to the police in Lincoln, Nebraska about a deceased relative and I mentioned I was calling "from the U.K." The cop said "I thought he came from England, not Ukraine".
Maybe I should have said "My cousin was powerful tractor!"
Also, scarily, I can't help recalling what Neville Chamberlain said about Czechoslovakia regarding the Sudetenland crisis in 1938: "a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing".
(Following the fall of the Iron Curtain, Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia)
Regarding the geography thing, I recall reading somewhere that roughly 10% of adults of normal intelligence cannot read a map; it's a brain thing; they just can't make sense of what it is a map shows. I recall (I am quite old) that in the 1960s there was a crisis in what was still called "The Congo". The producers of a BBC TV program set up a blackboard on an easel in a busy London street. It had the outline only of the African continent in white paint and the reporter stopped passers-by, handed them a piece of chalk and asked them to draw an X where they thought the Congo was located. In a short time there were Xs all over the continent.
I once had to discuss a building layout with a senior manager and we used a street map to look at street access. I mentioned the "North boundary" and he stopped me and said "How do you know that's the North boundary?". I replied that it was a convention in map making that North was at the top, and showed him the compass rose in the corner of the map with an arrowhead and a big N at the top. This was an a intriguing. esoteric and (I realised) baffling novelty to him. He was by no means a stupid person.
Seventy-five percent were unable to locate Israel on a map of the Middle East.
In fairness to America's youth, a lot of Israelis (of every generation) are also a bit in the dark over the whereabouts of Israel's borders.
Vienna is the capital of Australia.
It's Istanbul and not Constantanoble now, and it's nobody's business but the Turks.
Seriously...I felt bad I had no idea where Dagestan is. With all the talking heads talking about Chechnya, there was some mention of Dagestan. I was stumped. Not now (Northern Caucasus).
I realized that geography is not many people's strong suits. As a child I prided myself on knowing whatever I could about world geography - not just my country or continent's geography. Also being the youngest in my family, my brothers and sisters would make sure I learned my lessons. Later, as 14-yr-old, I became a ham operator...and further became interested in world geography. As a young adult all of Africa was changing...1960-1970. It fascinated me...though it was nearly impossible to keep up with (or sometimes pronounce).
Nowadays, I'm happy I can find my car in a large parking lot. Hey, they're mighty big here in FL.
I not only didn't know where it was, I had never heard of it.
Be glad they didn't mention Ingushetia and Abkhazia.