by Rita Goldner
Our news sources lately have been jam-packed with stories about a border wall. Since all the authors contributing to this blog agreed at the outset not to discuss religion or politics (and I heartily endorse this agenda), I’m going to write about walls in general, not THAT wall. My illustration is the Great Wall of China, and it’s a page from my almost-finished book, Making Marks on the World. While writing this section, I had to do research, since I’ve never seen the Great Wall. Fortunately I love that part of my job.
The Great Wall was constructed in sections, over several centuries, by different dynasties. It’s the longest structure ever built by humans. The reason was always the same: to protect against attacks and invasions. It was built with the forced labor of soldiers, peasant farmers and prisoners, millions of whom died and are interred in the wall.
I found it ironic that emperors during the last dynasty, the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), halted and even forbade any further construction. They were Manchurians, and the wall had been built to keep them out. These emperors reasoned that the cost, in money and manpower, was prohibitive, and a better way to protect China was to develop international support through collaboration and détente.
I first moved to Scottsdale 33 years ago. When I drove around on weekends exploring my new neighborhood, I saw occasional homeowners with small rented cement mixers troweling on an extra layer of cinder blocks, because their six-foot walls weren’t high enough. I surmised that these, like most walls, were built out of fear. Some fears are quite well justified: building a wall around your garden to keep deer and rabbits from eating your vegetables; a wall in front of a busy highway to keep a car from launching into your living room. But some other wall-building was because of irrational xenophobia: the old vs the young, the wealthier vs the not-so-much, the outgoing and active vs the quiet introverts, and of course the ubiquitous avoidance of rubbing elbows too closely with strange cultures, races and lifestyles, i.e. “the others”.
I agree with those Qing emperors 400 years ago who figured the only way around their own xenophobia was communication with the outside world. Communication – that’s where I and my fellow bloggers come in. As authors, we’re introducing to our readers the skills of problem solving and analytic thinking. Granted, some of us, like yours truly, have very young audiences, for whom the daunting problem might be finding their underpants when getting dressed for school. Nonetheless, any problem can be confronted with logic. Our self-appointed task is to present protagonists that either through their blunders or successes inspire their fans to make rational decisions and tackle unafraid the situations outside their comfort zones.
You can print out a full-sized copy of the Great Wall of China to color, by signing up for my kids’ newsletter at http://shoutout.wix.com/so/9LYxOHam.
Rita Goldner is the author and illustrator of the children’s picture book, Orangutan: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy. Rita has also written and illustrated two eBooks, Jackson’s History Adventure and Jackson’s Aviation Adventure, in the Jackson’s Adventure series. For orangutan facts and images and to purchase the book (also available as an ebook), visit OrangutanDay.com. Or by the Kindle version here. See her new work at Anthill Books. To view additional illustrations and other books in progress, visit Rita’s website. Contact Rita here. Follow Rita on Facebook.