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Despite the shortcomings the United States has, Americans should recognize their liberties and acknowledge the fact that their country acts as an inspiration toward others.

It’s easy to forget how blessed every American is to have the civil liberties that many around the world yearn for. 

To many Americans, this seems like a no-brainer. But, to many who doubt the vast and rare protections that our Constitution affords every person in the U.S., the recent national security law imposed on the people of Hong Kong should make this more clear. 

On July 1, many around the world watched in dismay as China’s Communist Party (CCP) implemented a new national security law that aimed to prevent sedition, subversion and foreign influence in Hong Kong, among other new acts. Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has maintained that the new law imposed by the CCP in Beijing will allow for greater stability for a city that’s been wracked by a year of unrest over the issue of autonomy from China. But, most know that this is simply China’s removal of Hong Kong freedoms that threaten its rule.

Over the past year, I’ve been amazed by the images of Hong Kong demonstrators carrying U.S. flags and appealing to President Trump’s help with fighting autocratic encroachment from Beijing. All the while, here in the U.S., division and rising mistrust in government and civil institutions and dissatisfaction with our way of governance has exploded as a result. While I know many of the concerns and criticisms are fair — no government can ever be perfect — and deserve to be thoroughly heeded and debated, I’m concerned with the lack of faith that our nation has in the protections afforded under the Constitution and the ability to create change when overwhelming consensus prevails. 

The images of Hong Kong demonstrators waving American flags and singing the “Star Spangled Banner” are the most powerful indictment of how successful and just our way of government is. Again, I know that there are flaws in our nation, as in any other, but the way people yearning for freedom in the face of oppression turn to the U.S. for hope and a chance to be heard should be inspirational to all Americans who shoulder a cause of freedom and justice. 

Many will disregard U.S. society and our foreign policy as unjust and racist, but I’d argue that while there are many social ills when it comes to race and equity, our ability to achieve success and liberty is unparalleled globally. Even in these uncertain times, many citizens around the world still hold a positive image of the U.S. as a leader in democracy, as opposed to fewer looking up to China’s Communist government. 

Our founding fathers designed our Constitution to have wide-ranging limitations and checks on power, which in turn makes the process of change in our country rather slow, since every level of society and government must agree on drastic changes. This process may be frustrating to many who see this working against the causes of the common citizen, but the alternative, I fear, could be worse. Demonstrations over treatment of Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement are a powerful reminder of what freedom can accomplish for the good of society as a whole, and that change is truly possible if we unite behind just and moral causes. 

The people of Hong Kong have now spoken about their feelings toward the impending suppression of freedom by the CCP. They — along with others around the world — understand that a system where all citizens are free from government tyranny, even when imperfect, is preferable to a system that values economic development at the expense of civil society. Rapid change — as China has demonstrated — always has drawbacks that can cause more harm than good to the people of a nation, something our founding fathers understood and feared. 

I always take comfort in the words spoken by Martin Luther King,Jr. whenever I find myself questioning whether our nation’s future is heading in the right direction with our most serious issues on equity, race and civil society: “We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

I urge all to reflect on people around the world whose governments silence their voices the next time one engages in debate and conversations about American government and society. Cherish freedoms, vigorously engage in it and seek out new ideas. Do this and more when expressing your thoughts on America and our way of life — I am sure our ancestors, descendants and the freedom-loving people of Hong Kong are all counting on us to keep the flames of freedom going. 

Andrey Chun is a senior International Affairs and Economics double major. Contact Andrey at chunsaax@dukes.jmu.edu.