Alex and my trip to New York City covered pretty much everything we did in New York City in 1988, with two exceptions. 1. the United Nations, and 2. The American Museum of Natural History. We fit a lot of things that we didn’t do in 1988 into our 2015 trip, though, and you can see them all under my 2015 Vacation category.
So, today we’ll focus on the United Nations.
At least in the United States, we tend to glorify World War II. At least in Europe, the United States was clearly on the side of the good guys. The Nazis were killing their own citizens by the millions. It’s really hard not to be on the side of the angels when your enemies are that bad.
During the war, the “Allies” as they are commonly known (the countries that were fighting against Germany, Italy, and Japan) decided that they needed to find a way to avoid wars like this in the future. They began in 1941 with the Atlantic Charter, an agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom, and then about four and a half months later, 26 countries signed the Declaration of the United Nations. By the end of the war, the United Nations included 50 countries who signed the Charter of the United Nations in 1945. Of course, eventually Germany (then the nations of East Germany and West Germany), Italy, and Japan did join the United Nations.
The stated goal of the United Nations was to avoid a conflict like World War II from ever happening again. As an attempt to avoid all wars, it has been a pretty spectacular failure. The United States, in particular, has taken up arms in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, at the very least, in the years since 1945. Other countries have had their own conflicts, as well.
Has it avoided World War III? Perhaps the situation hasn’t arisen that would have ended up being World War III, but I like to think that just maybe it has. Unless, of course, future historians decide that the conflict in the Middle East that began in 2001 and involves something like 40 different countries, has been World War III, which I don’t think is an impossible development.
My own interest in the United Nations started in the 1970s, when Diana Prince (civilian alter ego of Wonder Woman) worked there. When I ended up being pretty good with foreign languages (a trait I inherited from my maternal great-grandmother, who spoke five), I thought about majoring in a foreign language and becoming a translator and perhaps I would have been good enough to get work at the United Nations. We’ll probably never know. As I told you in my previous post on our 1988 trip, I was beginning to date the man who is now my ex-husband at that point. I opted not to major in a foreign language because I knew that I was already only going to be able to see him every few weeks. I didn’t want to have to live in a foreign country for a semester (or more!) and miss seeing him for 16 or 32 weeks.
When we visited the United Nations in 1988, we walked from our midtown hotel to the UN building. We walked down 45th street, so close to Grand Central Terminal that we could practically touch it. Grand Central was on my list of places that I wanted to see in person, but we were on a schedule, so my folks and I kept walking. We made up for that in 2015.
The original hope for the United Nations was that they would find someplace unclaimed by any nation to hold their headquarters. That ended up being impracticable, so they decided on New York City as the location. John D. Rockefeller bought an 18-acre parcel of land that used to hold a slaughterhouse and donated it to the United Nations. The United States ceded the land to the United Nations, so the headquarters is no longer part of the United States, though all of the laws that apply in New York City are enforced at the United Nations. The United Nations headquarters uses the US dollar as its currency, but it has its own stamps.
When we visited, none of the various organs of the United Nations were in session. This was bad because we didn’t get to see any of the activities of the United Nations, but it was also a good thing because our tour guide was able to talk about the General Assembly and the Security Council and things in the chambers themselves, which made it more interesting.
One of the most memorable parts of the tour, though, was the disarmament room. This room has various artifacts in it, most notably coins and a statue that were in Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the nuclear blasts there. Our tour guide told us that the delegates had to walk through that room to get to the General Assembly chamber. I don’t know if that was true then, and I am less certain of that now that the delegates apparently have to go through security with everyone else.
Alex and I are planning a return trip to New York City as part of our 2017 trip to Canada (which I’ve already saved up for). The United Nations is going to be the top of our list of things to see if/when we do make that return trip.