To quote the late Stephen Hawking, “We need to break down, not build up, barriers within and between nations.”

Earlier this week, Trump visited San Diego to inspect wall prototypes at the Mexican border, a concept so obtuse that it’s almost laughable. I typically do not let politics affect me, but because this is happening in my own backyard, I’m having a hard time processing the moral vacuity that is driving this project. It’s not the wall that upsets me, it’s the principle. The wall isn’t about border security; it won’t do anything to prevent the immigrants who come into the country legally and then overstay their visas, which is the real problem. It’s about materializing our country’s self-conceived elitism and disparaging the people who need our compassion most.

Living less than 40 miles from the border, I am closer to Mexico than I am any other major city in the United States. That country is essentially my neighbor, and I have never once thought that an arbitrary line makes me better or more important than anyone who lives there. Every time we drive down to Baja, it saddens to me to see the slums of Tijuana juxtaposed with the immense wealth and opportunity that sits on the other side of the barbed wire fence. I always think about the people who risk their lives to cross that border. We have so much in the United States; we have reached the point of diminishing returns where our wealth is actually making us unhappy. If someone in Mexico or South America wants to make a better life for their family within our borders, it seems selfish to deny them of that. When did our values transition from kindness, compassion, and basic human decency in favor of arrogance, pride, and exclusivity?

After living abroad and traveling to a number of countries around the world, I have realized two things:

1 – Opportunity is not a given.

Everyone born in the United States has the chance to work hard and improve their life. But much like the air we breathe, we don’t notice or appreciate the freedom of opportunity because it’s all we know, and we assume everyone in the world has it. That’s not the case. In many countries, whether it’s due to the economy, oppression, corruption, or societal constraints, people cannot improve their lives, no matter how hard they try. Opportunity is the exception, not the rule. If only we could all make a concerted effort to appreciate the opportunities we are given, while using them as a launching point to help those who are not as lucky.

2 – We’re all the same.

I have a really hard time wrapping my head around the fact that some people in our country think we’re more important than the rest of the world. It doesn’t matter where we were born, what language we speak, or what passport we carry, we’re all human, and we all want the same thing – peace and happiness for our families. I have connected on a deep level with people who were born on the other side the world and raised in a completely different culture than me, which has made me realize that the superficial identities we construct for ourselves and others do not define us. Dropping the prejudices society has conditioned you to have is liberating because living life with an open heart is much healthier than building invisible barriers.

If we want to make America great, we have to transition to a culture of altruism instead of ego, and I’m disappointed to see the most powerful person in the world lead with hate when he holds the keys to unlocking so much good! But at the end of the day, we have to surrender to the fact that we can’t control the actions of others, and we’re only hurting ourselves when we carry around toxic anger. We can only strive to be the most compassionate person we can be and hope that it influences others.