Among the many exciting developments of this progressively more normal fall at Blair is a particularly relevant and important recurring program: the Current Events Forum, orchestrated by a collaboration of senior students Dong Bin Won ‘22 and George Gan ‘22 with history department chair Jason Beck, began Thursday, September 9 with a conversation about what is widely considered to be currently the most pressing issue in foreign affairs. The forum met to understand and discuss the events of the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban’s takeover of the region, and the devastating consequences for human rights in the Middle Eastern country, the subject of an intense twenty-year-long military campaign following the 9/11/01 Twin Tower attack, namely for women and girls, who have already seen relapses in the abominably restrictive and dangerous laws and practices of Taliban rulership and are likely to experience further steep drops in access to and quality of education, economic independence, and self-determination.
The forum was decidedly a success, bringing together students from various grades and backgrounds to discuss this most troubling conflict and its implications for the world at large. The student group discussed and debated various facets of the Afghanistan war, highlighting both the failures of US involvement and its considerations in staging the war, the effectiveness of the Taliban in recapturing territory and persuading Afghan citizens to support its cause, and the chaos that has ensued since the evacuation of military, civilians, and refugees has begun. The role of the U.S. in international conflicts, the necessity (or, perhaps, lack thereof) of foreign military intervention abroad, and how we measure “women’s rights”- a cultural or universal standard?- were also hot topics.
The forum was effectively led by its student leaders, who adeptly offered their knowledgeable interest of US foreign policy in the Middle East and the current conflict to guide the conversation, first sharing disparities in media coverage, perception, and bias, and an informative video which encapsulated the basest points of the war and a simplistic timeline, which served as a reference point for the remainder of the conversation. The organizers agreed, too, that the forum was a great space for students to explore their interest in international political issues and air their concerns for the future of Afghanistan; “We all had a diverse range of backgrounds,” said organizer D.B., “and everyone seemed eager to learn more. I was grateful that people were willing to spend their time out of class to come do this… it was a great group.”
I, and many others, are glad that Blair offers such a space for students from a variety of beliefs and ages to have a space to share their thoughts on such global issues, even as they may not directly impact us in our “Blair bubble.” In fact, the so-called bubble was a consistent point of conversation, as each student acknowledged their privilege to live in a community that is overwhelmingly safe and protected, and in which injustice is likely to be addressed. The forum served as a place to discuss the complex geopolitical implications of the Afghanistan fallout, and will continue to do so in the coming weeks and months for a variety of issues facing our country and the world today, but also as a space to mourn the tragic missteps and weaknesses that have allowed for a complete regression to the most powerful days of the Taliban, leading to a future that is unclear, but which almost certainly guarantees injustice, a loss of democracy and the end of equal rights for women and girls.
(Copyright Peyton Schreiber 2021)