International protest movements are no longer in America's field of vision

Some protesters in Hong Kong today are adopting the British Union Jack flag, the American flag and the “Star-Spangled Banner” as symbols, yet that doesn’t seem to have stirred our collective imaginations. We outsiders are remaining fairly mute and stoic, even with about two million people — more than a quarter of Hong Kong’s population — out in the streets or in some way participating in the demonstrations.

One obvious possibility, of course, is fear of an official crackdown in Hong Kong, and the violence, possible loss of life, and further restrictions on daily life that such a crackdown would bring. Perhaps the smart money is already expecting such an outcome, and no one wants to be a party to such an ugly denouement.

But is that enough of a reason to withhold enthusiastic support? After all, the protesters surely have similar fears, but after internalizing the costs and benefits they have decided to risk their lives and liberties anyway. Surely it is strange if the protesters — who really do have something major to lose — are braver than we outsiders are.

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