A guy tries for ten minutes to merge onto a busy boulevard, cursing out the drivers that pass as ignorant and selfish. Finally someone gives him a break. Once on the road, he goes by several merges further on, also with long back-ups of cars waiting to get on. His friend suggests allowing in one of the cars. “Why should I let in any of those idiots?” he responds. “I’m in a hurry.”
It is just human nature to assess our own motives as reasonable and justified, and the motives of others as selfish, despicable, or even evil. This habit, while bad enough on the interpersonal level, can become deadly when practiced by groups or nations. Yet that mindset can be transformed by the simple act of getting to know the “enemy” or “other” and engaging in problem-solving.
I love stories that confront us with this truth. In the middle-grade novel Beyond the Dragon Portal (2005- Melissa Glenn Haber) Sadie travels to Dragonland to find her lost sister. Just when she thinks she understands this strange land and is fired up with anger against the enemy who is killing her dragon friends, she discovers that the truth about the Dragons’ war is much more complicated than she thought. I don’t want to give anything away, but this well-crafted story cleverly enables readers to get an insider’s view of the “enemy” and of war.
I am compiling a list of books that inspire readers to rethink enemy images. Let me know if you have any nominations!