Why should I care?
"Good luck, and goodbye." Those are the parting words of Apple Daily, the pro-democracy newspaper serving Hong Kong that has been forced to close because it was too much a voice of dissent for the Communist Party of China to handle.
■ But why should we care? Hong Kong is more than 6,000 miles away from the mainland United States, and its transfer from British to Chinese authority was sealed in 1997. In a sense, it's not as though the world couldn't see this day coming. Besides, Britney Spears finally spoke for herself in court and cheerleaders are swearing on Snapchat.
■ The problems of Hong Kong -- and, indeed, all of China -- may seem very remote indeed, but we're fools if we don't take them seriously. From our very beginning, the United States has been required to look outward. In Federalist Paper No. 24, Alexander Hamilton wrote, "Though a wide ocean separates the United States from Europe, yet there are various considerations that warn us against an excess of confidence or security." Since that time, powers have emerged and strengthened outside of Europe (that is, we have more rivals about which to be concerned), and the world's distances have been made much shorter (that is, those rivals are effectively much closer).
■ People with bad intentions never have small aims. And it's undeniable that a system so intent on crushing dissent that it would smash basic liberties (like that of a free press) is a system for evil. And it's not just about rough interactions between the press and the government: It's about erasing the institutions of freedom altogether.
■ It is in the nature of evil systems to be perpetually driven to expand. They have to expand because they have to be feared. It starts with domestic fear -- those who are directly under the thumb of the bad regime. Then it stretches to those abroad who have something to lose at home. Then it creeps into threatening foreigners inside the system. Then it begins to target economic interests abroad. And then it's on to threatening anyone who might fight back, even far from the regime. Odds are, all of us are potential targets.
■ That's because, on balance, people given the choice will pick individual freedom and liberty. But those things don't perpetuate themselves automatically. An individual's incentive to get incensed about encroachments against lofty human rights like freedom of speech or dissent isn't all that great. Certainly not when the nibbles of the shark seem small and far away. But the drive to keep reaching farther and farther is an inherent feature of an oppressive system. Their motivations -- to remain in power and to expand that power -- are driving and insatiable. Are we equally motivated to care? If not, what will it take?