We live in a big, wide world that only seems to be getting smaller with each passing day.
Only a handful of decades ago, regular international travel was still regarded as something of a miraculous innovation. Today, things are quite different.
The Town of Colonie’s involvement with the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program is a reminder of that. Over the past two years, the town has hosted delegations of officials from six different countries, including a number of government-types from Afghanistan who are in town this week as part of a U.S. tour.
That a mid-sized suburban town in Upstate New York would become such a crossroads is an unlikely phenomenon, but here we are. And what we found in observing the delegation’s interactions with town officials is despite being half a world away geographically – and perhaps even further in other ways – leaders in Afghanistan are facing many of the same problems as officials here.
Director of the Ministry of Counternarcotics Sumaya Shaheen told us about her country’s struggle to get its finances in order, and mayors on the trip were interested in learning how we plan for growth and change here in the U.S. They had other concerns, to be sure, like how their country will handle transition upon the departure of U.S. troops next year, but in the end they were most interested in how to bring a better standard of life to their constituents.
Especially in light of events over the past week or so, this is an important thing to keep in mind. While the details of the Boston Marathon bombing are still unfolding, in its wake there was invariably a knee-jerk reaction from many to point fingers at other parts of the world, people who look different, entire systems of belief that involve millions. This xenophobic response is always dangerous, but it is particularly counterproductive in a world that has become so flat, so interconnected, as the one we now inhabit.