No one knows where anything is.

It is time we came out and admitted it.

If someone put this nation at the steering wheel of an airplane, took away our GPS and told us to find Poland, we would circle and circle the globe, insisting with a certain desperation that “I’m pretty sure it’s over here.” Finally, running out of gas, we would land in Argentina, which we would valiantly attempt to pass off as Poland for a few minutes before breaking down into helpless, noisy sobs.

Perhaps this is what we should expect for a country first “discovered” by Columbus, a guy whose geography was off by thousands of miles. It’s hereditary. Wrapped warmly up in our civic identity as Americans is the need to insist that we Know Where That Is when we, in fact, know nothing of the kind. To us, the rest of the world is just a brownish area with points, as Buster Bluth might say.

One in four Americans don’t know that Earth circles the sun. One in four. And Kate Mulgrew’s not helping, narrating one of those documentaries that casts doubt on this fact.

And then this news that the less we know about where Ukraine is, the more eager we are to take military action there.

That’s nice. That’s cheery. That’s the sort of fact that really makes your toast taste better in the morning and causes the sun to shine more brightly on your walk to the office. It doesn’t at all make you want to, say, go rapidly ingest drain cleaner.

The 2006 National Geographic/Roper Survey of Geographic Literacy (I believe this is the most recent; possibly they stopped doing them because the results were too depressing) found that a mere 37 percent of Americans could identify Iraq on a map. And not only that — 20 percent thought Sudan was in Asia. And that was back when there was only one Sudan to locate.

Half of them couldn’t even find New York City. New York City, the concrete jungle where dreams are made of!

Based on dour-making facts like these, here are a series of maps I have constructed that better reflect how we see the world.

the world

It’s here somewhere, that’s for sure.

(Base maps via Wikimedia commons)