Therapy exercise for the day:
Dear President Trump,
Since the travel ban was enacted last week, protests have erupted and the polarization of America has accelerated. Like many, I’ve been engaged in social media dialogue and debate about this, and in the course of that debate I’ve learned that there is a fundamental concept that seems to matter deeply to “our side” — and is lost on “your side.”
I want to try and explain it.
You say that the ban is to protect Americans and I accept that you’re sincere in that even though an argument (with which I agree) can be made that it has created a net loss in security by putting our Embassy staffers, our military, and our intelligence personnel at greater risk and by stimulating further recruitment of Isis.
But that’s not my point in writing you.
My point is this: The Radical Islamic Terrorists whom you seek to protect us from are attacking our society in two ways, and you are only considering one. The aspect of their attack that you are considering is the physical one — terrorists attack America and some of our citizens are injured or killed. You seem to believe that any measure that impedes such attacks and protects Americans from physical danger is worthwhile and justified.
But there is a second danger from the opposition and you are ignoring that. That second danger is not the physical attack — it is the attack on our values, our identity, and our way of life, and these are all things we must protect as vigorously as we protect our physical safety. Your calculus is that they only win when they launch a physical attack, and if such attack is thwarted they lose. But they also win even when they don’t successfully attack, if by their threat they cause us to abandon our principles, our core values, and our way of life. These are sacred and they must be protected just as vigorously as our physical well being is protected.
Will you protect these values?
A core value of America is that we are a country who is open, welcoming, hospitable to people of all races and especially all religions. There have been setbacks in the past when we faltered, but the greater arc of history can be seen evolving from the origins of America in flight from religious persecution, through the safeguards in the constitution, to the continued renewal of our country by wave after wave of immigrants who infuse a unique energy, entrepreneurism, and optimism into our culture. All of this makes America unique. We believe these values must be cherished and protected just as vigorously as our physical safety is protected.
When a security threat presents itself, we believe that your duty is not simply to enact any and every action that could possibly make us physically safer. We believe that your duty is to weigh both the physical threat, and the threat to our identity, values, and way of life. When you look at the threat as two-pronged, and you seek to protect both our lives and our way of life, the focus shifts.
We see the ban you have implemented as an overreaction to a threat that is already well managed with existing structures and procedures. We see it as an irrational and emotional reaction that fans our weakest instincts and only incrementally adds to our physical safety. Yet the cost of this incremental increase in physical safety is great; the cost is that it degrades us morally and damages the core values and fabric of our society in ways that far outweigh any slight improvement in our physical security.
Mr. President, America is more than a place, more than a community, even more than a nation — it is a unique repository of hopes, dreams, and ideals that were articulated by our founders and have been carried forward for two hundred years. You have been elected to be the keeper of that flame. Your desire to protect us physically is a good thing; but you must balance that desire to keep us safe with an equal desire to protect our way of life and our values and keep them safe too. We Americans are not cowards. We are willing to accept some risk to protect our way of life, especially when a leader steps forward an illuminates what is at stake, and why our physical well being is not all that is at risk.
I realize there is very little hope my words will reach you, but I had to try. It is in our American DNA for the country to be courageous, not timid. Inspire us and enable that courage to be shown, don’t stifle it by playing to our weakest nature.
Let us be patriots.
Michael Sellers and all who feel the same way.