[A Polish version of this article is available here.]
As the only American living in Poland*, I often find myself in situations where I need to stick up for my country. It’s amazing to me how despite being #37 in healthcare and #17 in education, not everyone accepts the fact that America is #1.
“No, you see, God gave us guns to shoot people. It’s in the Second Commandment in the Constitution.”
“No, we don’t only eat hamburgers. That’s why we have Taco Tuesdays.”
“No, we do know where Poland is on the map.”
This last one is the most troubling. There are YouTube clips where unsuspecting Americans (who were just walking down the street trying to eat their hamburger in peace!) are suddenly assaulted on camera with mind-bogglingly difficult geography questions like “Where is Canada?” And because of these videos, many people in Poland (#10 in education and #5 in countries ending with land) think Americans are stupid.
“I bet you could never find Poland on a map before you moved here,” one Pole said.
“Not true,” I said. “I found it easily with Google.”
Still, I wanted to know if it was true. So when I was last in the States, I asked some of my friends if they could find Poland on the map. “You know, the place where I live and you refuse to visit?” With alarming confidence, nine out of ten of my friends put their finger on Russia. The tenth friend pointed to the Indian Ocean; but in his defense, he’s legally blind and I only asked him out of pity. I realized with horror I might as well be asking where Narnia was on the map. Haven’t any of my friends heard of Google?
It needs to be understood that Americans do know where countries are on the map. What my Polish friends don’t realize is that our educational system is different (for instance, in our college exams, it’s not important to identify the 17 different classifications of pierogi) and that we simply learn geography differently than the rest of the world.
Imagine a teacher and student standing in front of a large world map at an American school. The teacher says, “Where is Poland?”
The student points to Russia.
“No,” says the teacher who is clearly from Finland (#1 in education, but #4 in countries beginning with the letter F). “Let’s try something different. Where is Germany?”
The student points to Germany.
“Great. Now where is Japan?”
The student points to Japan.
“Good. Where is Vietnam?”
The student points to Vietnam.
“Okay. Where is Iraq?”
The student points to Iraq.
“Wonderful. Where is Afghanistan?”
The student points to Afghanistan.
“Now how about Iran?”
The student looks at the map and shakes his head in disappointment.
“That’s okay. You will.”
Frankly, I think Poland — and any country in the world for that matter—should be thankful we can’t find them on the map.
Being the only American in Poland** is a heavy responsibility. And I admit that my confidence in the United States sometimes wavers, especially when I see news stories out of Florida. How can I convince Poles of how amazing my country is when I’m reading stories like the man who was caught smuggling heroin inside his baby’s diaper? (Honestly, knowing what I know about babies these days, I’m convinced he was framed!) How can I convince Poles of how amazing my country is when I’m reading stories like the man arrested for the fifth time having sex with the same horse? (What? Now everyone’s against monogamy?) How can I convince Poles of how amazing my country is when I’m reading stories like the woman who offered oral sex at a drive-thru in exchange for a cheeseburger? (I must confess though, I initially loved the story for combining two of my favorite things: cheese and burger!)
So when I’m depressed and unable to muster the energy to explain to everyone here why my country is so phenomenal, I take comfort in focusing on the incredible things we have in America that Poland will never have.
For instance, Poland doesn’t have Jesus appearing on all of its food.
I try to explain to Poles that we say things like God bless America because we know he does. Why else would his son keep appearing on all of our food? He’s appeared on everything. Cupcakes. Potato chips. Burritos. Candy bars. Lettuce. Burgers. Waffles. Chicken nuggets. You name it. I like to think Jesus is somewhere taking selfies with his phone and when he likes a picture, he says, “Man, this is going to look so awesome on a pancake!”
According to a scientific study that I probably just made up, Jesus appears on so much American food that 1 in 3 Americans eat him every day without realizing it.
Jesus even appeared on an Ohio woman’s pierogi. A pierogi! If you don’t know, pierogi are the Polish equivalent to American hamburgers with billions being consumed every day. You figure he would make an appearance on at least one Polish pierogi, right? No, that honor went to America, of course! To add insult to injury, the woman auctioned off the pierogi for $1775, proving once and for all that the American Dream is alive and well in the 21st century.
All this makes me wonder why Jesus never appears on any of the food in Poland? What did Poland do wrong? Why is God mad at them?
Alien abductions are another thing you won’t find in Poland.
You know the story. An American is simply minding his own business somewhere in the woods — usually with some bottles of liquor and mandatory hamburger — when suddenly he is abducted by aliens. From there it’s a lot of bright lights, some touchy-feely (the universal language), a post-coital cigarette before a botched memory wipe, and then he is finally dropped off where he was found. It’s only when he wakes up with a headache and realizes what has happened that the real horror is revealed: THE ALIENS DRANK ALL THE LIQUOR!
Hundreds of such cases are reported every year and it’s believed that thousands go unreported out of shame. It’s become such a serious concern that you can actually buy alien abduction insurance which covers 1) pregnancy by alien (you laugh, but you try getting child support from a Predator!), 2) examination by alien, and 3) death by alien. You will never see a Pole wishing he had gotten insured just as an alien is about to kill him. Why not? Because, unlike Russia and Germany, the extraterrestrials leave them alone.
Now I’ve given this subject a whole lot of thought, especially since I found out that while there are no alien abductions in Poland, there are plenty happening in Russia. There’s a famous case from a few years ago where a prominent Russian governor went on live television and confessed that he was abducted by telepathic aliens…WHO DRANK ALL OF HIS VODKA! Russian officials apparently took him very seriously. In fact, they were worried that he had shared government secrets with the aliens. While doing research, I discovered that the story of the governor is just one of hundreds of stories of alien abductions in Russia.
This got me to finally asking the big question: Why doesn’t Poland have alien abductions?
It hardly seems fair that the United States and Russia should have all the fun.
But then I realized the awful truth.
Since the majority of abductees are American (the aliens probably want in on this Jesus on food action!), I’m willing to bet that before they are returned home, the aliens probably give them a survey for quality assurance purposes. It’s probably nothing too complicated, with questions like “From a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate this abduction?” and “Would you recommend this abduction to a friend?”
The aliens probably also want to learn more about our planet, so I’m confident they have questions like, “We’ve heard so many great things about Poland. Could you show us where it is?”
After the holographic map appears, the American, with absolute confidence, points to Russia.
*This might not be true.
**This still might not be true.