Switch headers Switch to TIGweb.org

Are you an TIG Member?
Click here to switch to TIGweb.org

HomeHomeExpress YourselfPanoramaReflections
a TakingITGlobal online publication

(Advanced Search)

Panorama Home
Issue Archive
Current Issue
Next Issue
Featured Writer
TIG Magazine
Short Story
My Content
Reflections Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Josh Lasky, United States Jun 3, 2002
Human Rights   Opinions
 1 2   Next page »


Reflections on the Recent Past (10/21/01)

Josh Lasky is a 17-year-old high school junior in Cranford, NJ. He
recently attended the United Nations World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa from August 31 to September 4, 2001. Josh served as a youth representative to the United States Delegation, which withdrew from the conference early by order of the Secretary of State Colin Powell due to lack of progress on certain issues.

Josh returned home from South Africa on September 6, 2001, just five days before the terrorist attacks on America.

A small article in my local newspaper proudly displayed the headline
"Local teen journeys to South Africa." It had such a great ring to it, one of those great small town accomplishments by a smart, focused high school kid. It was meant to be the type of story that made people feel good that a kid they knew was going places. Did it matter what he was doing and why it was important? Not really.

I only wish people knew the truth, the full meaning of what I experienced among the leaders of our planet, being surrounded by a pure political atmosphere, and how it changed my life forever.

Preparing for the conference, I learned multiple sobering truths; the one that I was touched most deeply by was the idea that our nation is not very well liked withing the global community. Most children are brought up to believe that the United States is the best country in the world (which is arguably true) and that it is the most powerful country as well. The egocentric and narrow-minded education system in our schools has been raising generations of confident patriots, oblivious to foreign affairs and international issues that affect them every day. Falling victim to this process only delayed my adoption of a more objective view of global events. I now came to see that Americanism, the ideas of civil liberty, guaranteed freedoms and democracy were viewed as a disease to some of the nations of the world. I was about to see this opinion expressed very openly at the World Conference Against Racism.

Witnessing the conference was nothing short of painful. The sacred
concept of diplomacy, in my eye, was gradually decaying; along with a visible animosity for the United States, I watched my country become blatantly disrespected. Our position on the issues had opened us up perfectly to negative commentary, and it was beginning to become evident. Both Fidel Castro and Yasser Arafat made this clear, and urged countries to support anti-US positions. All the preparation in the world couldn't have prepared me for the overwhelming blur that was supposed to be a world conference to eliminate racism.

The "disgrace in Durban," as it has been called, only got worse as time went on. At the high end of the delegation, US officials were getting nothing done in negotiations. On the fourth day of the conference, I could sense some frustration. Late in the day, I was told to sit, alone, in the United States chair in one of the two drafting committees, while the core of the delegation attended an emergency meeting at a local hotel. Before I knew it, the delegations of Canada and the United Kingdom were asking me when we would make the "announcement." Apparently, Secretary of State Colin Powell had spoken to our head of delegation and told us to pack our bags. A whirlwind of emotions swept over me; extreme disappointment, spirited anger, calm acceptance. Inevitably, I acquiesced with the practical decision, understanding both the nature of the situation and the fact that I had absolutely no power to change it. The response from those at the conference came immediately, as protesting broke out in the streets around the International Conference Center, and non-governmental organizations expressed their disagreement.

After our official withdraw, I still had so many questions that would
remain unanswered, and my ambitions to learn and grow from this conference had been drastically reduced. All I knew was that it was over, and I was going home. During the trip home, my glass was half-full however; my journey to the World Conference Against Racism had provided me with every angle of international politics I could have hoped for, except in half the time.

I didn't have much time to think about the significance of my experience before my world was horribly interrupted; I returned home on September 6. Five days later, all the verbal attacks on America I had heard at the conference had now become physical and tangible. I could have seen it coming, as anyone would with the exposure I had to the critical voices of leaders of the world. Only now, a month later, are experts and political analysts thinking about the image of the United States walking out of the racism conference in Durban, and its consequences.

Despite the events of September 11, my experience in Durban taught me priceless lessons about politics and diplomacy, but more importantly, about life. I learned that, when all of our possessions are stripped away, all we have left are our strong-held beliefs. It is these thoughts and feelings that drive humans to share and come together in an effort to improve our world and shape the future. This need to convey our beliefs manifests itself in discussion groups, on debating floors, and within legislative bodies. It is here that the most significant and meaningful human interaction takes place, and in these arenas, I find myself most fulfilled. Sadly, as we all know, the will to express an opinion or to take a stand can take shape in the form of violence: aggressive action which blatantly abandons the gift of discussion.

 1 2   Next page »   


You must be logged in to add tags.

Writer Profile
Josh Lasky

This user has not written anything in his panorama profile yet.

Josh, you give me hope
michael hanratty | Jan 6th, 2007
It is amazing to see a young man with such a kind heart and so full of hope, come of age; without any scars or hate.

You must be a TakingITGlobal member to post a comment. Sign up for free or login.