I am grateful and humbled that my novel Paper Boats is being well-received by readers from all over the world. The story is about two boys of different religious beliefs and philosophies trying to survive together at the close of World War II. Their journey is fraught with danger and they are challenged with many adult themes, one of which is racism and hate. Because of this topic, I am often asked from my readers my thoughts about the state of race relations in the United States today. I must admit I’m not sure why I’m being asked such a question. I’m just a writer. I’m not a world visionary. I don’t have secret insights and answers. But still, people think I do. So here’s what I tell them.
The media, no matter whether it’s from the left or right, fills their stories with sensationalism. Why? It sells. And people are buying. It doesn’t even matter if what we hear is the truth. Facts are twisted and events are interpreted for good or ill. My advice is to learn the truth for yourself. Don’t rely on what you’re being told, because the media’s agenda is most certainly not yours. Education is power. So do your best to educate yourself. See the world on all levels, from multiple perspectives and from many viewpoints. Form your decisions from what you learn and with common sense go from there with respect and thoughtfulness.
The last thing I would advise is to look at people differently. Suspend your judgment. Look at people not as being African American, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, liberal, Pro-life, Pro-choice, Caucasian, purple, red, yellow, short, tall, blue haired, bald, tattooed, transgender, girl, guy, handsome like Brad Pitt, a genius like Sheldon Cooper, and on and on. Dismiss identity such as religion, race, and ethnicity. We as a society get too caught up on these traits. Yes, our identities are important to us personally because they provide a sense of belonging and unity, but as a society that needs each other to survive and be happy, do those traits really matter? I mean really, really matter? I should think not. Look past these traits and toss out the labels. Just wipe it all away! Simply, look hard at each person as a human. It’s the one and only thing we share and it should be acknowledged and respected.
I am often reminded of a story I read recently about an African American man that witnessed an elderly Caucasian woman struggle to cross a busy street. He did not think twice about whether to assist her or not. He just did. It makes me smile reading that. He didn’t help her for any other reason other than that he saw a human being in need. If we all thought this way the world would be a more joyous place.