Today I spoke at the College of DuPage’s Humanities Festival with my presentation Beyond Paper Walls: Traveling as a Transformational Experience. It was about my newest book Beyond Paper Walls, but I didn’t go in too deeply into the content of the book. Instead I talked more about what lead to the creation of it, other comics (particularly Dragon and Goat), and how, thanks to traveling, I have not just been inspired to create art & comics but have changed how I see the world. (Here’s a link to the Book)
Since you probably weren’t there I thought I’d share part of the ending of the talk here:
The book [Beyond Paper Walls] is the best showcase of [my] experience [in Japan], so since I’m conveniently at the end of my time speaking, you’ll just have to get the book to see what I took away the journey and how it helped synthesize my other experiences and transform me yet again. This is not just a ploy to sell more books but rather because the book is not just about me. It’s about an experience that I had in another place, but more so it is an invitation to the reader to learn about other cultures, not just the culture of Japan.
This book came out in 2016, before we Americans were thrust into this brave new world of 2017. We have to be aware that today it is ever more important to travel to counteract the negative image that the current administration is projecting to the world. Before we as Americans become mere images to the rest of the world, become cartoons.
Yesterday on NPR’s World View, Reza Aslan was discussing how as Americans our identity comes not from a homogeneity of ethnicity as in other nationalities, but rather from an embrace of common, humanistic values. But this identity tends to be fragile at times of crisis (or perceived crisis), and when we struggle to identity ourselves within our selves, we tend to define our selves by some distant Other.
We cannot be a country that demonizes foreigners, immigrants, and refugees, bans Muslims, oppresses people of color or tries to blind the public by silencing the media. We have to embrace other people, people who may seem on the surface unlike us, but in many ways share the same hopes and aspirations that we do.
We can do this through traveling, not just to see sites but to build relationships. It is through meeting people with other experiences that we come to empathy, and a more empathetic world is a less violent world. We have an obligation to find common ground with other people and embrace differences.
And if you can’t travel remember that many people are already here from all over the globe. We have a responsibility to share our home with them, welcome them here, and open ourselves to changing how we see.