Josh Hawley speaks at Turning Point USA
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images


What I Learned About Manhood From The Hong Kong Protestors

They were startlingly young — only in their early twenties, most of them. Several were veterans of earlier protest movements. A few had already spent time in prison.

The following is an excerpt from U.S. Senator Josh Hawley’s new book Manhood: The Masculine Virtues America Needs, from Regnery Publishing.

Love and Hope

The man who makes war on the evil in his life and sacrifices his own pride opens his life, in the end, to something far more powerful. He opens it to love. Love is the burning center of the warrior’s existence and the secret of all true courage. The warrior loves something dearly and passionately more than himself. He loves his wife and children. He loves his nation. He loves God. And that love makes him strong.

Self-regard, by contrast, is a weak affection. It will consume your life, to be sure, as in the story of Narcissus, who loved his image so completely he wasted his life away staring at it. But it cannot inspire. If your life is relentlessly about you, you will never run toward danger. You will never confront the giants that threaten, whether your finances or your boss or an addiction. You won’t risk incurring the wrath of the powers that be by speaking the truth. You will always try to keep yourself safe, undamaged. And you will always have everything to lose. That way ends in despair and self-contempt.

A man’s conscience is a powerful thing. It will condemn the man who constantly avoids struggle and pain as a coward. But if you will abandon your focus on self, you will find the love that gives courage. And love, in turn, gives birth to hope.

Sometimes courage is portrayed these days as the refuge of the hopeless. J. R. R. Tolkien puts something that sounds like this sentiment into the mouth of Gandalf in his Lord of the Rings saga. “There never was much hope,” Gandalf says, as Sauron’s darkness grows and the quest to destroy the Ring seems to falter. “Just a fool’s hope.” Many have interpreted this passage to mean courage is most noble, most true, when the warrior believes he is doomed to fail. But that is not quite Tolkien’s point, and not the Bible’s either. Tolkien’s heroes soldier on not because they are fatalists, content to be mere pawns of chance. Nor because they are nihilists, believing all to be meaningless. They soldier on because they believe right will prevail. And they believe their lives can make a difference in making it so.

I have known men like this, and seen with my own eyes the power of their hope. In the fall of 2019, the Chinese Communist government in Beijing orchestrated a crackdown on the hitherto independent city of Hong Kong. Displeased with Hong Kong’s autonomy, and Hong Kongers’ (as they call themselves) criticism of the Beijing government, Communist leaders threatened to suspend self-government in the city, contrary to China’s own treaty obligations that guaranteed the city’s special status. In response, protestors took to the streets, only to be met in return by violent police repression. The protestors refused to back down, and the clashes turned bloody.

I was in my first year in the Senate at the time, watching these events unfold from afar. I learned from sources in Hong Kong that the protests were being informally led — it was in many ways truly a spontaneous uprising — by a group of young, very young, men and women. When I heard the accounts of their courage and listened to their pleas for help, I knew I had to go.

I traveled to Hong Kong in October of 2019 to meet with them and see the protests firsthand. The U.S. consulate in the city was less than delighted with my visit. Consulate staff advised beforehand against the trip. Once there, they strongly urged me to keep to my hotel. I politely ignored this advice. I wanted to see the protestors myself, see their courage and their stand, and lend whatever support I could.

One member of my staff had extensive contacts with the protestors. As soon as night fell, we left the hotel and headed toward where we believed, based on his information, the latest clashes between the government and the Hong Kongers were underway. We hailed a cab, but the driver refused to take us more than a few blocks. Eventually we walked, finding our way to the Mong Kok district, usually a bustling shopping and commercial hub, but on that night a battleground. The clashes between pro-Beijing police and the protestors had already turned violent by the time we arrived. A car burned in the street. Protestors were spray-painting “Free Hong Kong” on boarded-up windows. There were people running in every which direction. As we watched, a large group of Hong Kongers began to assemble in the middle of the road, peacefully, carrying signs decrying the crackdown. Suddenly a phalanx of pro-Beijing police in riot gear appeared opposite them, heavily armed. They took to loudspeakers and ordered the crowd to disperse. They threatened to disperse them by force if they did not.

The U.S. government often sends military liaisons with members of Congress when they travel abroad. In this case, at this moment, my military liaison leaned into my ear and said, “Sir, we should back away. If they begin firing into the crowd and we are caught up in it, it could cause an international incident.” He was right. But the protestors did not back away. We stayed too. I wanted to see with my own eyes what would happen. The protestors held their ground, and eventually it was the riot police who turned and moved back. All night long the protests continued, with explosions and violent exchanges in many parts of the city.

I met with the leaders of the protest the next morning. It was an honor. They were startlingly young — only in their early twenties, most of them. Several were veterans of earlier protest movements. A few had already spent time in prison. I promised to report what they were doing to people back in the United States, to explain what they were fighting for.

Why are you willing to face prison? I asked them — and though I did not name it, we all knew what else they faced, the other, ever distinct possibility: death. We love Hong Kong, they said, and we want to see it free. We believe we can be a beacon for the world. They had hope.

They were realistic at the same time. They knew the odds were long. They knew the Beijing government could destroy Hong Kong’s freedoms in a moment, if it chose. But they believed their stand was worth making, even if they did not live to see their cause succeed, because they believed their actions would echo and build and — in time — whether in their lifetimes or another’s, prevail.

That is the courage of hope. And even now, they go on hoping. After the events I witnessed, the Beijing authorities intensified the repression. They forcibly put down the protests. Many of the young people I met that October were later imprisoned or exiled. Yet their hope endures. And the light of that hope — in the right, in God — cannot be extinguished.

God made the world with a plan, to be something — an Eden. And even now that plan is advancing. Every man can play a part. We are born to play a part. That is a hope that pain and death cannot destroy. And a man who gives his life to that hope, and to its Author, will not be disappointed.

Josh Hawley serves as Missouri’s senior U.S. Senator.

This excerpt is taken from Manhood: The Masculine Virtues America Needs, from Regnery Publishing.

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  What I Learned About Manhood From The Hong Kong Protestors