So Much Winning: The Power of Intellectual Curiosity

In the late summer and early fall of 1771 Benjamin Franklin, on travel in Ireland and Scotland, met with James Watt and Adam Smith. The same James Watt that developed the steam engine that started the industrial revolution. And the same Adam Smith whose Wealth of Nations would introduce the world to the formal concepts of capitalism five years later. If there’s an answer to the “fly on the wall” question for me, it’s hard to think of two conversations I’d want to hear more.  Continue reading

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Third Law

On Motion:

Law 1: Every body persists in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward, except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by force impressed.

Law 2: The alteration of motion is ever proportional to the motive force impress’d; and is made in the direction of the right line in which that force is impress’d.

Law 3: To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction: or the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts.

Isaac Newton, Philosophia Naturis Principia Mathematica, 1687.

On People:

Law 4: America is a people in motion. 


The common American narrative of the birth our nation is that our principled forefathers cast off the yoke of nearly two centuries of imperial British rule with the Declaration of Independence. Continue reading

It’s Not Checkers

It’s been more than twenty years since the IBM computer Deep Blue beat Grandmaster Garry Kasparov in a six game challenge of chess. Now, a few decades into a reality where something we’ve created can beat us at a game of strategy, we’re all pretty sure we’re only a few decades away from being enslaved by machines. I’m more skeptical. Or more optimistic I guess, depending on which way you look at it. But there’s quite a bit to learn from the observations you can gather from paying attention to the evolution of machine chess. And not just about chess.

A truly world class chess playing human can look a half dozen or so moves into the future and reasonably predict where the most relevant pieces will be. A computer can go dozens. So the thing that makes a computer better than a human at chess is not in fact it’s ability to ponder consequences to itself and infer the intention of its opponent. What makes the machine better is simply a function of how many simultaneous calculations it can do relative to what a human can. And how much it can remember about the variables of moves it considers. For a computer, that’s all of them. For a human, it’s something less than that.

One of the things you’ll hear, if you pay attention to chess is that commentators will often say things like, “That’s a move no human would make.” Because chess computers not only see more of the future, they care less about the past and present. A computer doesn’t worry if the move looks crazy. And it doesn’t concern itself with how harsh the criticism will be if that move fails. It simply sees that it will likely work. And it makes the move.

The human it’s playing is often so dismayed by the abnormality of the move that they get flustered. And they make mistakes. And even quit. That’s what happened to Kasparov. He conceded a game after a bug in the program made the computer do something stupid. The Grandmaster wrongly assumed it was genius. So he quit. The computer is not bogged down by the troublesome human burdens of risk aversion, doubt or shame. And so for the most inhuman of reasons, the computer is better at winning chess matches against humans than other humans are.

There is one part of chess that computers aren’t better at than humans though. It’s the the first dozen or so moves. What’s called the opening. In fact, computer chess programs are so bad at computing the opening they don’t do it. Because the end outcome is so distant and the variables are near infinite, they won’t even try. Instead it will use a reference database of known openings instead. Because the openings chess players use are some variation of the known openings that humans have learned work most effectively over 15 centuries playing chess. Because even the most powerful computer in the world is no match for the collective learnings of our species. So in that respect, they imitate us.

There’s a reason we’ve been playing chess for as long as we have. There are so many parallels to life. How a computer needs to play it, is one of them. It’s very easy to be bold and uncompromising when you are just a little shrewder than some of the others in the room. And you started the game with the advantage that others handed to you. Say, if you were given a real estate empire. And all you had to do, was punch the guy across the table hard enough and long enough that he conceded that you had the stronger hand. And that you made the rules. You could even be outrageous. Knock people’s foundations out from under them. Get them flustered and outraged. Make them fold when perhaps, they didn’t have to.

And you might find, that gives you success.

But if you start something brand new, for instance, like take on the responsibility of governing the country that’s been most effectively governed for longer than any democracy in the history of governing, perhaps you may want to consider how some of the men who did it before you chose to act. See how they treated people. Practice the same disciplines they did. Follow some of the norms. You might find then, like the computer did, that several centuries of human consciousness is not in fact, less savvy than you are at something so very important.

And perhaps then you might find that you can drain the swamp the way it so needs to be drained. Because those who have given you the power you so sought will fear you less than what they fear they’ll find at the bottom when you drain it.

Or you can go on flubbing the opening. And lose early and often. Because computer chess tells us one other thing about it that is a powerful analogy to life. The scoring systems show that it’s almost never a glaring error that loses the game. It’s the compilation of smaller ones that ultimately erodes one player’s stronger position until they’ve got nothing left.

Like an illegal travel ban that no one needed. Or a healthcare plan that couldn’t be passed. Or a wall that your people don’t care about paid for by funds that your people don’t have.

 

System One

Long, long ago, before the internet or television or electricity or even running water, the most complicated computer the world has ever known was already operating. It’s an incredibly old and incredibly common machine. It’s the human brain. It’s been growing and learning and creating efficiencies for thousands of years-millions if you count those that came before us sapiens. It’s responsible for more of what the world looks like today than anything that has arrived since the time of man.

It’s an easily fooled machine though. For as complex as it is, the shortcuts it takes to make us wondrous sentient beings what we are leave it susceptible to bias and blunder. Because over time, we’ve developed two systems that pull and push on each other at all times. And the fight isn’t always won by the right one.

The first one, system-1, was born somewhere in our lizard brains before we even made it out of the swamp. It’s automatic and uncontrolled. It’s our gut reaction to things. It see’s fire and runs. It assumes much. But understands little. System-2 is slower, deeper and more intentional. It feels turbulence on a plane but overrides our fear and reminds us that planes almost never crash and are built to shake. System-2 is deliberate. It’s where our best thinking on complex issues is done.

Some people are more system-1 than others.

Our brain plays games with us to manage these two systems. Behavioral economists like Richard Thaler call them heuristics. Thaler and co-author Cass Sunstein highlight three types in their 2008 book Nudge .

The anchoring heuristic is a fun one. We use things we know to be our first estimation of other things. If we don’t know the population of Kansas City, we think it’s much higher if we live in New York than than if we live in Daleville. A New Yorker’s population anchor is higher than a Dalevillian.

Then there’s availability heuristic. We assess the likelihood of something happening more frequently if an instant of it happening is available to our recent memories. Kidnapping, for instance, almost never happens. But every time it does, we hear about it. So we are less likely to let our kids play unsupervised at a park than we are to let them swim unsupervised in our own pool. Even though the latter is statistically, far more dangerous.

The representative heuristic makes us think that A must be B because A looks like B. We’re likely to think a large man in his early twenties in an expensive car is a pro football player. In fact, it’s more likely that he’s a lawyer. There are many more lawyers than pro football players. And therefore many more large lawyers in their early twenties than pro football players. But system-1, doesn’t know that. And it doesn’t care.

Things like advertisements and sales pitches try to appeal mostly system-1. You could argue that the best ones are all system-1, because system-2 advertisements take too much time. And maybe too much of a good product. So it’s just a short leap to say elections are greatly impacted by system-1. And the effective electioneers are most effective when they use these heuristics to tap into system-1 while appearing to be talking to system-2. When they target those people whose system-1 is largely in control, they are very effective.

Muslims are terrorists. And shouldn’t be allowed in the country. I can protect you—representative heuristic.

You’re all in danger. Only I can save you from crime and attacks from outsiders—availability heuristic.

America was once great. And you should expect it stay that way. And I can make it great again—anchoring heuristic.

For all of President Trump’s 40 or so years in the public eye, he’s been a system-1 guy. He’s about the brand. Find an idea, pitch that idea, provide some money, not yours if you can help it, and have someone else do the work. Slap the name on it that conveys the feel. Wander away and figure out how to do it again. It’s not stupid. But it’s not system-2 either. It’s all system-1.

Trump Plaza. Trump Marina. Trump Tower. Trump Steak. Trump University. It’s all about the brand. Branding is all system-1 after all. When I say Apple, you feel modern and elegant. When I say Haagendaas, you think of a foreign delicacy. Never mind that it’s made in Brooklyn. System-1 doesn’t care about the facts. Only the feel, facts be damned.

Running the government of the United States of America is a system-2 thing though. It’s early, but man does it feel like it’s being run by a system-1 guy. It’s been a bad week for the administration. But not for the reasons I would have thought. Not because he’s dishonest and motivated by selfish or unscrupulous ends, though that may be the case. It’s been a bad week because Team Trump has been inordinately stupid. I don’t use that word often. It’s a lazy criticism. But I don’t have a better word than stupid for using system-1 for system-2 things this much.

Michael Flynn was fired for cause during the Obama administration. Bringing him on was appealing to conservative system-1 and how good it feels to flip Obama the bird. But you need someone whose not stupid or crazy enough to talk to Russian officials and lie to your boss about it running the National Security Council. The original travel ban felt good to many scared conservatives. But it wasn’t legal. So much so that the White House isn’t going to push it again. They’re making a new one all together because the first one was a bad idea. Repealing Obamacare…system-1. Done. Fixing health care? System-2…crickets.

Hard problems are system-2 things. We’d all feel a lot better if we saw any proof at all that the Trump White House could work at all outside system-1.

 

When You’re a Hammer…

I few months ago I wandered into the Tucson airport bookstore, the victim of the dreaded and constant Tucson to San Diego delay, and saw four books on the “non-fiction” shelf by men I’d once worked with. They were war books. They were books on how to lead people differently, based on lessons learned in war. Or ways to live your life better, based on lessons learned in war. These men weren’t distant acquaintances. They were men I knew well. Men at periods in my life that I spent more time with than my family. They were my friends. And when I saw their work, and their stories in majestic hardcover form on the shelf, it made me happy. They deserved to tell their story. And others owed them a listen.

If there’s an upside to war, it’s the character that comes with the sacrifice of the generation that fights it.

You can’t turn on the television or scan your Facebook feed without a lead in that doesn’t say something like “A former Navy SEAL does X” or “this veteran has a message for Y”. There’s much to be learned from us and the experiences that less than 1% of America had fighting a never-ending war that took up all of the most productive portions of many of our lives.

So when we talk, you should listen. When we tell you about what it’s like to sacrifice years of our life to be a part of something bigger and more important than ourselves, then you should listen. And when we tell you what it’s like to serve in combat and fear for our lives and then pull ourselves past that fear to do things only we could do, you should listen. And when we tell you what it’s like to leave our family for years on end to go serve at the leisure of our national interests, you should listen. You should listen when we tell you what it’s like to watch our friends die to protect us. Or what it’s like to sift through body parts after a suicide bomb at a funeral. Or see dead children. You should listen. You should listen to us tell you what it feels like to slam a “Rip It” plug a wad of Copenhagen in our jaw and get your gear ready to go out the door on a raid with Titus Andronicus blaring in your ears.

You should listen to all of it. Because there’s power and wisdom in the lessons that life at war can teach you. Some of my friends have even written them down. I write them here.

When it comes to our opinions on things like politics or how the United States of America should behave towards other nations and other peoples, you should listen to us too. But you should also remember two critically important things.

First, the service of arms, in an all volunteer force, tends to attract a certain type of person. Good bad or indifferent, those that sign up and choose the path to stay against all available options tend to value certain things above others. And those things tend to align with a strong, conservative world view. And for we vets, that world view weaves itself into the fabric of our identity deeply. And sometimes, if we’re not careful, we’ll wrap ourselves in and wear it as a shield against realities that perhaps weaken the narrative we’ve told ourselves to help us live with the pain and sacrifice of our life of service.

It’s neither a good nor a bad thing. It simply is the way it is. And you shouldn’t discount what we say. But you should remember the things that shaped our perspectives.

The second is this. When you’ve been a hammer your whole life, the world starts to look like a nail. And the call of the one who promises to swing it, is the one you’re more likely to answer. So take what we say seriously, but also make sure it’s not the only voice your listening to.  If you try to build your house with just a hammer, you get a lousy house.

I’ve gotten asked a few times about the zeal that members of the military are showing for the new Commander in Chief. And whether or not it worried me. It doesn’t. In fact, it’s a good thing. Our military enthusiastically carrying out the legal orders of their Commander is a good thing. If you were looking to them to serve as opposition, look elsewhere. It won’t happen. And it’s not their job. That’s a problem for a different group to solve-the rest of us.

And if you’re worried about the uneven nature of the POTUS coupled with this new found enthusiasm for their leader resulting in the military becoming unhinged and sweeping the nation of the enemies of their leader, rest easy. I don’t have a ton of faith in Congress to do the right thing. I have a little more in the judiciary. And you may see some misguided junior military members doing stupid things like flying Trump flags from military vehicles, which is in fact against the rules, but don’t worry. They’ll be taken care of. Because the men and woman who lead them are perhaps the one group you can bet your ass, has the courage to stand up to the boss, when he’s out of line.

We all raised our hands and swore an oath to defend something for which  we were willing to sacrifice all we’ve had or all we were ever going to have. And it’s not a man. And that’s not changing anytime soon. No matter who’s sitting in that office.

The Trump Trilemma

Dani Rodrik, the Turkish born Harvard Economist states that a nation may have two of the following three things: national sovereignty, democracy, or deep, global economic integration. It can have any combination of two. But it cannot have all three.

This is “Rodrik’s Trilemma.”

The logic behind why is somewhat complicated but can be reasonably explained as three forces pulling on one rope. Only two can pull at once to balance it. The third has nothing to grab on to.

One force, economic integration or, globalization as it’s called in the political world, is created when we reduce the barriers for trade of goods and flow of capital between nations. In order to have it, we reduce transaction costs; tariffs, import/export quotas, etc. When we do this, we inherently weaken some aspects of the control of the nation state and strengthen the input of global regulatory bodies in the sovereign affairs of the participating nations. The two sides pulling on the rope in this scenario are globalization and the sovereignty of a state.

If a nation desires globalization, it has to give up some power in determining its trade policy. If it wants more control over trade policy, it should be prepared to lose bargaining power in a globally integrated economy. The ebb and flow can be rationally managed and balanced to meet the best outcomes of the nation.

The trilemma comes in to play when that nation tries to do this while maintaining the accountability of democracy. In a deeply integrated global trade environment, an electorate has to have a focus beyond the nation’s own borders to ensure that it governs and makes policy in a way that effectively facilitates the global flow of goods and capital. In order to do this, the electorate must be willing to surrender, through democratic process, some sovereign power to global regulatory entities. They need to be able to do this in all circumstances even when, or especially when, the near-term outcomes of trade policy negatively impact the outcomes of the electorate.

Rodrik maintains that electorates don’t do this.

As a result, a nation wishing to maintain global trade integration and democracy must give up sovereign power to the global regulating entity lest the unwashed masses of democracy break the global economy with a tariff to protect their jobs. The tug of war then transitions between global trade outcomes and democracy. The more power the democracy has, the less integration we’ll receive. Sovereign control sits it out, surrendered to the electorate or the global regulatory entity.

We could continue the analogy through all the potential combinations but the one material to the Trump-ism discussion is where we’ve insisted that global economic integration sit out the contest and let democracy and sovereign control of trade policy have a go at it.

Let the people pick the leader. Let the leader pick the economy that delivers for the people. Everyone else get in line behind America.

America First.

This path is sold easily after hard times like the Great Recession. Trump and Brexit are textbook Rodrik’s Trilemma occurrences. Globalism is the casualty.

Most economists agree, if not in magnitude at least in direction, globalism is a net economic positive. It increases GDP, decreases the cost of goods, and makes the world an “overall” more stable place. The global margin increases.

People don’t vote on the global margin. In America today, they don’t vote much on their individual outcomes either. They vote on their culture. And that makes globalism an easy target.

Much of the Trump-ism message is about transitioning the economics of globalism into a cultural message of nationalism. One of the great tricks of Trump-ism has been to align the negative economic outcomes for its political base with the culture of toleration.

About halfway through the first quarter of the 2017 Super Bowl, I began to get the feeling that the American consumer, or at least the corporations that sell to the American consumer, were not big fans of the inward anti-globalism focus voted into office with the Trump administration.

The global cultural mindset was everywhere.

Coca-Cola ran an ad with people from all over the world singing America the Beautiful in their native tongues. Budweiser told the story of Adolphus Busch’s immigration. 84 Lumber showed the first half of a story that had to be cut off and shown on the internet because it actually showed Trump’s dubious great wall of America.

The message was loud and clear. Americans associate positive sentiment with a modern, compassionate, global perspective. We feel warm and fuzzy about the idea of diverse cultures all longing for and participating in the American dream. That message was market tested and executed by multi-national corporations who spent $160K a second on airtime to deliver it. It was not an unintentional endeavor.

The commercials we were fed were about people and culture and diversity. And tolerance. They filled Americans with the positive sentiment ad companies love to attach to the brands they represent. Inclusion sells. The sentiment, though, is a classic example of a problematic progressive globalism trap.

The progressive globalism trap pushes the notion that globalism is about people and tolerance. And if you’re about people and tolerance (I am), then you are a fan of globalism. In reality, globalism as we know it, the globalism that’s actually materially impacting Americans, has almost nothing to do with people and cultures and everything to do with trade and money. The standards enforced by the World Trade Organization and the outcomes that reducing barriers to free trade have coincided with an era of tremendous global growth. It’s drastically reduced economic inequality across nations.

But at a cost.

That cost has been the re-distribution of wealth and the increase of income inequality within already wealthy nations like America. It’s a firm reality of economics. We grow other place’s middle class at some difficult to quantify expense to our own.

Additionally, the opening up of the international flow of capital allows money to move seamlessly from country to country. But that’s come at a cost too. That cost has been a financial interdependence that fuels global recessions without alleviating the need for sovereign nations to bail out institutions deemed “too big to fail.” The global community didn’t bail out the American financial sector or our automakers. America did.

At the same time, the open flow of capital has also allowed open competition for corporate earnings to drive the corporate tax rate down globally almost 50% in just a few decades in a way that makes America less competitive for internal investment.

The fair point that Trump-ism makes is that global growth and stability hasn’t come without a cost to America. And the cost has fallen heavily on an American working class that hasn’t realized that we transitioned from a manufacturing and production economy to a services economy two generations ago. While the benefits of that global growth of the second half the 20th century exist, the costs are easier to point to in the wake of the recession.

By aligning the economics of anti-globalism with the cultural phenomenon of nativist nationalism, Trump-ism trapped their opposition in a reality where one is either for diversity, or one is for America. One can’t be for both and have the economic interests of Americans as a priority. The only counter Democrats found in 2016 was a departure from capitalism all together of Bernie Sanders.

And we know how that went.

Crisis of Faith

When you say the word Christian, do you mean your faith? Or do you mean your tribe?

Let me ask that question in a different way. When you hear the word Christian, do you see a person? Or do you see a way of life?  Is it a noun? Or, an adjective?

It’s an exercise in semantics right? Well, in as much as the teachings of the Christian Bible are semantics, I guess it is.

Our world is full of semantics. “Our country is great” can mean a lot of things. Great means powerful. It means rich and full of opportunity. Great could mean familiar and sustained. Great can mean free from tyranny and overburdensome rule. Great could mean a place where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness win out. Or, it could just mean a decent place to live in peace and quiet with the space to live with your own thoughts.

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For me, great means the place that every living human soul in the world wishes they were born, but even more, wishes they could die in. Or die for. That’s what great means. And once, not too long ago, maybe even last week, that’s what America was.

The dreams of the world happen in American. My first ancestor came here as an indentured servant, to Brooklyn before it was even a British colony.  My last came here over two hundred years later, from Ireland, working in the steel mills of Pennsylvania. For centuries, people came because of the promise of great. Because greatness meant one simple thing. All were welcome.

We wrote it down and it changed the world.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

We screwed it up from the start. We didn’t include everyone. And we paid the price. We fought like hell over the last 240 years to get us to equal. And welcome. And we’re damn close. At least we were. It’s changed though.

Why?

About that first question I asked. When you hear the word Christian, what do you hear? I’ve heard the wasteful debate over whether or not we are a Christian nation with Christian values. We are. But we are more than that too. At our very core, we are a nation built on the fundamental value that all are equal. It is not at odds with my faith. My faith tells me all are loved. All are forgiven. All are welcome.

We are every bit in the middle of a great crisis of our faith and culture. But for a different reason than perhaps they’ve led you to believe. Our way of life isn’t at risk because more people want to come and live it. Our way of life is at risk because we’ve answered that first question wrong. Christian isn’t a thing. It’s not a tribe or a people to be protected. It’s a beautiful word that describes a bold fearless way to live. And the crisis isn’t that the knock on the door came and keeps coming from those in search of our shelter. The crisis is what we’ve decided to do when we heard it.

The teachings of my faith are clear and unambiguous. Matthew 25:

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’

In my faith, my God doesn’t ask. He commands. And he does not qualify my safety as a condition to obey. You can fool yourself into thinking that closing the door is protecting us. Maybe for a little while. And maybe from outsiders. But it can’t protect our way of life from the only enemy who could ever take it away for good.

Us.

This is not our way.

Cowardice is Not Our Way

The war started for me while I ate dinner in the  wardroom of my ship, a navy destroyer, floating in the Arabian Gulf within eyesight of the coast of Iraq. The phone rang at the captain’s seat. My roommate answered, said “ok” and hung up.

“Someone just flew a plane into the World Trade Center.” he said.

That’s all we knew. I went up to the bridge and took over the watch. Minutes later, the phone in front of the captain’s chair on the bridge rang. It was my roommate down below.

“Someone just flew a plane into the other tower. The towers fell.”

I hung up the phone and looked around the bridge at the other men. They were kids. So was I. My feet felt like they were frozen to the deck. A hand on my shoulder snapped me out of it. It was the captain. He handed me a yellow sticky with some coordinates and nodded to the chart table. A subtle order that started the war. Then he climbed up into his seat on the right side of the bridge and sat down.

That’s when I heard it.

Over the marine band radio, the ones we used to talk to the other ships and boats in the area. We heard laughing. And cheering. And music. As the towers fell, we heard cheers of joy.

A little over a month later, the first shot in the war rumbled out of the forward missile launchers of my ship. I watched it from the same place I was standing when the towers fell. That night, as I went to sleep, safe in my stateroom, I had two thoughts before I drifted off. The first was that we were at war with an entire region; maybe even an entire religion. The second was that I never again wanted to fight it from the safety of a ship.

The next day, my ship was on the cover of every newspaper in the world.

Two years later I returned to that part of the world as promised, with a with a very different group and had a very different mission. The details of the what and the who aren’t important. But what I learned is.

The end to a hard nights work in that life was always signaled by the same two things. The light purple glow on the horizon of the dry flat earth. And the wailing of the call to prayer. One morning, as the low droning sound of Arabic echoed from the speakers over the harbor, one of the young officers from the partner unit my team worked with looked at me. He was a Muslim. And he was born and raised in the area in which we were working.

He was a friend.

“I wonder what that sounds like to you Lieutenant.” He smiled. “It sounds like God to me.”

We weren’t far from where they cheered over the radio on 9/11 in distance. But things were different between him and I. They always are when you do the work to close the distance between people.

That’s the lesson I learned.

My team conducted dozens of operations to fulfill objectives of the Global War on Terrorism on that deployment. My Muslim counterpart, and his team of Muslims, Christians and others were shoulder to shoulder with me on every one. I’d go back a third time a few years later. Hundreds of missions that time. On every one of them, a Muslim was the first one through the door. Sometimes, they were the only ones through the door.

Lying in my bed in my stateroom, ten years earlier, I’d gotten it wrong. We weren’t at war with a region. Or a religion. We were at war in a region that had a religion. And the Muslim men and women that fought with me were fighting because the first countries that radical Muslim terrorists invaded, were their own.

I’m not naive. I know there are people over there that don’t love America. I’m confident that there were even men I fought along side who hated me, my country and what I represented. Some I’m sure eventually wound up on the other side after I left. But there are also people over there that are just trying to get through this life in one piece. And feed their families. And keep them alive. And they don’t give a rip about anything other than that.

We don’t have to do anything for them. They aren’t American citizens. They aren’t protected by the laws of America. And who does and doesn’t enter the country is every bit the prerogative of the executive branch of the United States Government, whose leader we just elected.

Much of America is just waking up to the fact that, in the domain of immigration, the actions of our previous leaders were governed more by the societal norms of decency, charity and global leadership than they were by laws. And when it comes to immigration, the president can pretty much do whatever he wants, within the bounds of the very few laws that dictate how we address other people in other places.

We’re all realizing now that the choice we made this November was that decency, charity and global leadership are no longer a part of the American message to the rest of the world.

And maybe that’s fine. Maybe we should be ok with that in order to preserve our safety and our way of life.

Maybe not.

Maybe we’re pretty safe right now. One third of one percent of murders in America come from terrorist related violence. No fatal terrorist attacks in America have ever been conducted by someone coming from one of the seven countries for which we just banned the entry of refugees. And we are several times more likely to drown in a bathtub than be killed by a terrorist.

And maybe our way of life isn’t so fragile.

We cast off the rule of the most powerful empire the world had ever seen by waging a bloody war against them because they taxed us without due representation. Over 22,000 of us were killed or wounded in a day at Antietam in a war to preserve our union and destroy the institution of slavery. We led the largest invasion in the history of man over the beaches at Normandy to free a continent we didn’t live on. And we put a man on the moon using slide rules and a pencil.

That’s our way of life. That’s America. We don’t hide behind a wall like a coward.