Perhaps the most redundant exercise in the world is the Peace Corps bringing the world back to the USA.  The world is already there.  We come from all countries, ethnicities, races, linguistic groups, climes, regions, and more.  We are a melange of all the world’s people.  And what other country not in Africa has the son of an African immigrant with an African surname as president?

For over 50 years I have heard people chide Americans for not knowing the world.  As a Peace Corps Volunteer I taught African students the geography of the Americas.  Of course most knew about the USA but nothing else.  Teaching about South America I could have been teaching about the dark side of the moon.  It occurred to me that the USA is the great nexus through which all countries learn about each other.  No better analogy than the internet that funnels the world through the USA.

America is the largest recipient of foreign visitors of any country and Americans constitute the largest group of foreign visitors going to other countries.   But let’s look at specific indicators of global knowlege.

Languages.  Americans are supposedly mon0-linguistic while people of other lands speak several languages.  Such is not the case.  The USA is the fifth largest Spanish speaking country in the world.  You can find people in the USA who speak every known language including so-called “dead” languages.  Of course people  who live in countries with small populations speaking their own language such as Finland learn second langauges because few outside their home countries speak their language.  And that second language is more often English than any other.  And then there are the countries with several official languages where all speak at least two, their mother tongue and a common language, e.g. Spain.

Cuisine.  Do we know food?  American chains cater those “American” staples hamburgers (origin Germany), pizzas (origin Italy), and tacos (origin Mexico) to hungry diners around the world.  And we dine ourselves on food from the four corners of the world.  No, Americans know more about the foods of many lands than any other people.

Culture.  American films, books, and television permeate the world.  And yes, we see, read and hear music, films, plays, dances, and more from around the globe.

Sports.  I consider sports to be the most universal connection between the peoples of the world.  Of course there are the olympics but also the recently concluded soccer World Cup.  But there is international  competition in practically every other sport from ping pong to auto racing.  And Americans are present in almost every one of these competitions.

Origins. We are proud of our various heritages with cultural clubs of all stripes flourishing in the USA. And what American does not know his heritage?

No, we Americans know the world and our attitudes do not come from lack of knowledge.  Rather the way we see the world comes from our own reaction to what we see, hear and sense about other lands and people.  My observations are that Americans are basically cautious about other lands and cultures.  Many are reluctant to visit other lands because they hear of violence abroad.  They are chary about eating and drinking in many places because they suspect the hygenic procedures abroad.  And many are often convinced that foreigners do not like Americans.

No, we Americans know the world, perhaps too well.  Having knowledge may help formulate one’s understanding of foreign lands but our attitudes come from our reactions to what we see, hear, smell, feel and taste of other lands.