Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pots, Kettles

Scott Gilbreath directs our attention to this:
A poll of nearly 2,000 Britons by YouGov/PHI found that 70 per cent of respondents incorrectly said it was true that the US had done a worse job than the European Union in reducing carbon emissions since 2000. More than 50 per cent presumed that polygamy was legal in the US, when it is illegal in all 50 states.


The survey showed that a majority agreed with the false statement that since the Second World War the US had more often sided with non-Muslims when they had come into conflict with Muslims. In fact in 11 out of 12 major conflicts between Muslims and non-Muslims, Muslims and secular forces, or Arabs and non-Arabs, the US has sided with the former group. Those conflicts included Turkey and Greece, Bosnia and Yugoslavia, and and Kosovo and Yugoslavia.

Asked if it was true that "from 1973 to 1990 the United States sold Saddam Hussein more than a quarter of his weapons," 80 per cent of British respondents said yes. However the US sold just 0.46 per cent of Saddam's arsenal to him, compared to Russia's 57 per cent, France's 13 per cent and China's 12 per cent.

Mr. Gilbreath guesses that this sort of ignorance isn't likely unique to Britons. Other reports suggest that he is probably right:
... After huddled consultation, a young woman stood, gave her nationality, and launched into a spirited reading of the "I am Canadian" rant made famous as a Molson beer commercial in the spring of 2000. [*]When she sat down, everyone in the room laughed nervously --I don't remember any applause. Our host, gracious to a fault, made light of the boorish and insulting tone -- completely out of character with the rest of the evening -- and asked the student if she would be willing to answer a few follow-up questions. Why does Canada have two official languages ("I speak English and French, not American … " says the rant)? How does a prime minister differ from a president? The student giggled, appealing to her friends for assistance. We waited. But the rant was all they had to offer. Finally my husband rescued them, offered thumbnail responses and mentioned a few distinctions of which Canadians are justly proud. On behalf of all, he then expressed gratitude for the hospitality extended to us that evening.

... [I]t is worth reflecting that when it comes to ignorance and jingoistic swagger, there is more than enough to go around on both sides of the 49th parallel, and that proudly sewing a Maple Leaf on your backpack is no guarantee against it.
What a very pathetic lesson! That in clinging so unnaturally to an absence of value for our defining trait (that is: delighting in what we aren't, rather than--what is more obvious--what we are), we have somehow come to embody that most boring of stereotypes about American folly: a crass and uncivilized propensity to dismiss, out of hand, a given group based on an untested and entirely superficial understanding of it.

Bravo, my non-American brothers and sisters! You've done yourselves unproud!


* What ever happened to our man Joe Canadian anyway? ... Oh yeah.