We were presented with numerous map quizzes, on which we had to label countries, capitals, states, cities, lakes, seas, straits, mountains, deserts, dams, islands, basins, capes and so much more.
It’s important. As embarrassing as it is, I never knew where Libya was until we had to memorize all of Africa. It’s sad because I couldn’t identify all the places I heard in the news if I tried.
Along with a trillion other books, we were given Harm de Blij’s “Why Geography Matters,” and we each had to read a chapter. Mine was about terrorism’s root in the Middle East. I learned a lot about the beginnings of the Taliban and the rise of Osama bin Laden’s empire. Little did I know that a lot of this had to do with geography.
De Blij pointed out that the Islam fundamentalist groups flourished in the desert. These groups control everything from what women wear to which town to attack next. Moderate Muslims tend to live in more temperate regions. These followers of Islam are free to live their lives in a less strict manner while still being faithful to their god.
Also, the mountains played a huge role in the development of terrorism. For the longest time, bin Laden was thought to be hiding in the mountains. And for a while, I suppose he was. The mountains made it harder for the counter-terrorists to fight back.
Terrorism was map-driven. Ultimately, bin Laden wanted to control everything, build an empire and convert everyone to the fundamentalist Islam ways. Just as any social studies teacher analyzes the map of the Roman Empire, bin Laden would obsess over maps, too. He included it in some of his videos.
But enough about terrorism.
The intense geography training made me realize that not only did I not know about places far from me, I didn’t know a lot about the country I live in (I switched Nebraska and Wyoming on the map… woops). I should be more aware of the world.
Even if the training didn’t help me with understanding my world, at least I’ll be better at Jeopardy.