Saturday, October 24, 2009

One World United

Magnet #73: United Nations Headquarters, New York

Material: Rubber

Purchased By: Dad

This is United Nations Day, the anniversary of the ratification of the United Nations Charter in 1945. World War II had just come to an end, and it was clear that the League of Nations wasn't capable of creating a powerful, lasting dialog between the nations it consisted of, which did not include the United States. A new organization was needed, and Franklin Roosevelt himself provided the name "United Nations" when referring to the Allied Powers. When the United Kingdom, France, the Soviet Union, the Republic of China, and the United States joined together to formally begin the United Nations, it was hoped that it would maintain peace and encourage nations to come together to solve economic, social, and humanitarian issues.

When the time came to find a place for the physical headquarters of the United Nations, the Rockefeller family played a major role. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. himself paid $8.5 million to buy some of the best real estate in all of New York City after his son Nelson negotiated the purchase. They then signed it over to the City for free. The area is now international territory and consists of a complex of four buildings and a park. The 39 story Secretariat is the most visible and important structure there.

Some might argue that the United Nations is weak, ineffective, corrupt or what have you. Personally, I'm glad for its very existence. It's a sign that we live in a world where war is considered wrong, and countries that invade and conquer one another are censured in some way. Sure, we still have wars like those in Afghanistan or Iraq, or terrible acts perpetrated in part of Africa, but we have come so far in terms of achieving some kind of peace in this world. I cannot imagine - or perhaps don't want to - living in the Ancient World, where one army after another invaded whatever land was known to exist, killing, enslaving, and committing all sorts of atrocities in the meanwhile. Armies like the Etruscans, the Greeks, the Persians, the Huns, and the Romans were a continual threat and invasion and war could never be far from people's minds. And Medieval times weren't really any better. The bloody Crusades to reclaim the Holy Land took place then. England and France were continually at each other's throats, particularly during the Hundred Years' War. Even once those times were done, conflicts persisted, eventually leading up to the atrocities committed during World War II, such as the Holocaust and the Bataan Death March. Once the horror of that war had ended and those acts became public, it was clear countries needed to gather together to make some kind of change, in the hopes of preventing future war and war crimes. And the United Nations was their solution.

In these past times, war was a way of life nearly all over the globe. Countries were almost expected to invade and engage in bloody acts, and did so for thousands of years. The United Nations marks a change in human consciousness, an attempt to shift from the bloody mindset of the past to a present where war is not an accepted way of life. Nowadays, in most parts of the world, people don't carry a weapon at all times out of necessity as they have in the past. I doubt we'll ever know peace on Earth, but perhaps, with some help from the United Nations and the countries who are a part of it, we may pave the way toward a more peaceful future.

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