There’s lots of ways to compare the relative merits of nations; gross national product, living standards, civil liberties, individual opportunity and the like. Well, ho friggin’ hum and screw that nonsense. Let’s talk about what really matters, which countries are cool and which are not. Naturally, America wins that one hands down as the coolest country on earth. We’ve even gone so far as to elect a cool president this time around, which we do from time to time. Kennedy and Clinton come to mind as fairly cool dudes, with honorable mention to Thomas Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt.

By that standard, A Cool Guy in The Seat, then France joins the club with Sarkozy and his red hot wife, the gorgeous Italian singer-model-actress Carla Bruni. While France was always a very cool country, their presidents have tended to be real stiffs, sort of like the situation with California and its governors. Since World War 2 there’s been one dull gas bag poser after another running France. In reverse oder, they are: Chirac, Mitterand, Giscard d’Estang, Pompidou, and that prize winner of a blowhard bore with a huge stick up his ass, DeGaulle. So, include France as an extremely cool country now. The Carla Bruni Factor is huge.

Cool countries also include, in no particular order – Jamaica, Italy, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, Belgium, Algeria, Botswana, The Netherlands, Thailand, Sweden, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Tunisia, Montenegro, Greece, Cuba, Palau, Portugal, Nepal, Tibet, Argentina, Trinidad and Tobago, Belize, and Morroco. Uncool countries? Well, of course Canada would have to top the list, along with Russia, Saudi Arabia, Israel, any of the various Ikstans, Japan, China, Chile, Germany, Luxembourg, South Africa, any of the Temporary Republics of the Baltics, Poland, both Koreas, Singapore, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, England, Austria, India, Chile and many others.

Some countries are downright dull as dirt, while others are just stiff and square. And what makes some countries cool and others not cool? Well, if you have to ask, don’t bother. While every nation has some cool people and places, every nation isn’t cool. Some used to be cool, but aren’t anymore, like Egypt. Others never were and show no promise of ever getting it. Take Canada, for example, which has lots of cool places but for some reason all their cool people leave and go live in America. And while England has lots of cool people, like their rock stars and actors, and lots of cool places, as a whole the place is stiff as a board. They still insist on having a monarch around, even though European royalty has been inbred for so long that the little wave the Queen does in public is her greatest accomplishment. It’s just sad. Sad and creepy.

Germany? No way, Gunther. Centuries need to pass to live down all the crap Germans pulled in the last century. North Korea? Sorry, but wearing sunglasses doesn’t mask the huge insecure nerd factor and the mindless brutality of the regime there. Their counterpart, South Korea, while being a successful democracy and all, loses all their cool people to the United States where they come to run successful grocery stores and send their kids to college.

And why is Sweden cool and not Norway or Finland, their Scandinavian brethren? The sex, period. That even gives them a bye for ABBA and Saabs. What about Denmark? Well, what about Denmark? Is it still even there? Scotland? Much like Canada, their cool people wind up in America, while their cousin Ireland gets a ton of cool points for the soulfulness and the poetry in the hearts of their people, overcoming the glaring lack of interesting places there. Why Argentina and not Chile? Buenos Aires vs. Pinochet, a real no brainer. And why is Russia, with all its great novelists, not cool? The reason Russia’s novelists are so great is that they make even a dull and oppressive ice box of a nation sound interesting. As often as not they wound up in prison for their troubles or declared enemies of the state simply for being interesting. That’s not cool.

Why so few Arab countries on the cool list? Ask them, they wouldn’t have the slightest idea what you’re talking about, maybe even be tempted to chop one of your hands off for bringing it up. What about China? Aren’t they going through an exciting period of growth and modernization? Exciting in terms of China, maybe, but everything is relative, and China remains relatively dull compared to their colorful history (see Egypt), as does Japan, no matter how good their cars and cameras are. Outside of Japan’s geishas and baseball players, they are a pretty boring, homogenous bunch. Nice enough people and real earnest and all that, but cool? No way. They’ll have to come up with something more compelling than sushi, Karaoke, Sumo wrestlers and an obsession over losing face before they can even think about being cool. Besides, they fall into the Germany category of having a whole lot to live down.

The rest of the world (Except for France. Again, the Carla Bruni Factor.) has a long way to go to be even a tenth as cool as America, still the gold standard for cool. From our founding document that for the first time included The Pursuit of Happiness as being important to Steve McQueen, America’s got it all over the rest of the world in being cool. Could Jack Nicholson, Paul Newman, Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, George Carlin or Duke Ellington have been produced by any other nation? How about Marilyn Monroe, Halle Berry, Whoopi Goldberg, Janis Joplin or even Hillary Clinton. Writers, you say? Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Norman Mailer, Langston Hughes spring to mind, cool dudes all. Entertainers? Too many cool ones to even start that list.

Our music, movies, TV and literature enthrall the world, and our politics are followed by a hell of a lot of people more closely than they do their own nations’ deadly dull leadership. Even our criminals are cool (other than Bernie Madoff), with the likes of John Dillinger, Willie Sutton, Jesse James, Bonnie and Clyde, Bugsy Siegel and Lucky Luciano enjoying cult celebrity status when they were active. There’s no scientific way to define cool. Either you are or you aren’t. Among our many inventions, cool is one of our most prominent and still one of the best reasons to be an American. Who wouldn’t want to live in a major cool country? Here’s to America the beautiful. And hip.

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