Americans are homely, kind people; generous to a fault and always anxious to do the right thing. Only the churlish refuse to concede that an American’s heart is almost always in the right place, even if the foot is in the mouth or the bull in the china shop.
In the old days, before forensic examination of societies became possible, let alone fashionable, it was taken as a given that most people were dumb. Nowadays they’re not supposed to be; or if they are it’s not their fault.
The fact is, however, that most Americans are dumb. Like most other people. They’re certainly not smart in terms of standard statistical measures of national brain-power.
One of Hector’s favourite American fun facts is the survey – now of some vintage: perhaps today more of Uncle Sam’s finest know the answer – that revealed 58 per cent of American high school graduates were unaware of where Canada was. (Al Capone, who made a mint as a Chicago mobster but was clearly as thick as a Calzone pizza, is said to have asked, when told an out-of-sorts affiliate had gone to Canada, if that was that new place on Main Street.)
Americans are also god-fearing, or so they keep telling us, ad nauseam. That’s why it’s a surprise to learn – from a new Gallup survey – that that while they buy more than 20 million new Bibles every year (to add to the four that the average American already has at home), less than half can name the first book of the Bible. (It’s Genesis.)
Only one third know who delivered the Sermon on the Mount. (Apparently Billy Graham is a popular answer.) One in four cannot state what is celebrated at Easter. (Ah, guys, try the Resurrection, the founding element of Christianity.) Sixty per cent cannot name half the Ten Commandments. And 12 per cent think Noah was married to Joan of Arc. (They probably think she was burned at the stake just downstream from that place in Louisiana, for that matter.)