This summer’s protests in Hong Kong have me wondering if we have lost the desire and courage to stand up for democracy in the world.

 Is there a cause you feel about so strongly that you would risk your life for? 

At what point would you take to the streets and face a police baton, water cannon, tear gas, or bullet?  

Does it seem odd that the protestors in Hong Kong are waving the American flag, quoting our founding fathers and singing our National Anthem?  How often do we do that? 

Does it bother you that Hong Kong protestors see more relevance in “our freedoms” than the average American citizen?  Perhaps they have acquired a sobering view of freedom from knowing that the People’s Liberation Army of China is so close, so ready to snuff out their flickering flames of liberty. 

There is a photograph of a Hong Kong protestor screaming in defiance as a policeman points a revolver at his face. A few feet separate the two men in this moment. The protestor holds an umbrella and a smartphone with arms outstretched.  The smartphone is the iconic symbol/tool of modern rebellion, just as powerful as an AK-47—but not at that moment. 

The photograph reminds me of the images from Tiananmen Square in 1989—where a pro-democracy youth movement blossomed in the heart of China’s capital and was later crushed by tanks and machine guns. I remember seeing the protestors create a plaster statue of liberty, stand in front of tanks and commit to hunger strikes for the ideals of freedom and democracy. 

As a young soldier and college student in the United States I admired their courage to die for the freedoms we often take for granted here. I wondered why we didn’t support them more vigorously. 

Sadly, in my lifetime I can think of many times where democracy movements were only given marginal support. Why can’t we as Americans be greater advocates of democracy?   

This week we observe Patriot Day (as a reminder of 9-11) and hopefully a wakeup call to reaffirm our own patriotism. Blind patriotism is not what I’m writing about. Patriotism should never be forced or required. In this country patriotism was born from rebellion, built with the blood of Civil War, defended in World War II and earned in Civil Rights marches. 

We can lead the world to a brighter future unless we blow it. 

Instead of arguing over a political party or a cult of personality—we should look for simple local solutions and slowly rebuild the ability to regain fiscal responsibility, compassion, awareness of the environment, and true leadership.   

What troubles me are the divisions that separate us as citizens. We need to hear each other’s words, seek common ground and renew our commitment to democracy and liberty. This seesaw of power shifts, blind spending and obstruction have become tiresome and dangerous to our nation. 

The world needs a beacon of freedom, not a ship of fools arguing over who can stab each other in the back more effectively.  Make no mistake that our enemies in the world want us divided because it makes us vulnerable. Our enemies foreign and domestic capitalize on our distractions.

While the protestors in Hong Kong sing songs of freedom and wave “our” flag protestors here perceive fascism and speak lovingly about socialism? We have the luxury to fight over all types of issues. 

Our news media operates with tunnel vision. They were distracted by President Donald Trump’s sharpie.

Hong Kong was returned to China from British governance in 1997, under the principle of "one country, two systems." This means that while becoming part of one country with China, Hong Kong would have "a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defense affairs" for 50 years, according to the agreement. Under this agreement, Hong Kong was promised by China “its own legal system and borders, and special rights that included freedom of assembly and free speech.” 

Promises can be broken with the tread of a tank or bayonet, just ask the ghosts of Tiananmen Square.  

It is my hope that Americans will reacquaint themselves with the freedoms our forefathers so skillfully constructed and bled for. 

I challenge our educators to teach history, civility in discourse and civic responsibility. 

I think most of my friends on all sides of the political spectrum can appreciate the power of the ballot. 

Never be ashamed of our freedom—it is envied and reviled by many in this world.  

It is worth standing up for and even dying for. 


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