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Public Statements

Executive Calendar

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. President, it really has been quite a year here in Washington for drawn-out policy battles. It is November, and we are still fighting over defense spending, trade, and the results of an election long since decided in 2016.

A quick flip through this morning's world news sections serves as my daily reminder that Americans really do have so much for which to be thankful. One might even feel inclined to say we are really lucky to live here in the United States. Yet I will tell you that luck really doesn't have a lot to do with it. Our freedom was bought with the blood of thousands who instigated a revolution in spite of being outspent, outmanned, and outgunned by the global superpower of their time, and thank goodness they had that fighting spirit. That same absolute belief in the right to self-determination went on to fuel the abolitionists, the women's suffragists, and the civil rights warriors. Their fearlessness inspires freedom movements that we are seeing all across the globe today.

Just a few months ago, heads turned toward China as thousands of Hong Kong people poured into the streets and said no to Beijing's stranglehold, but just saying no wasn't enough. Now their neighborhoods and universities have morphed into war zones, and Chinese authorities have long since justified shooting live rounds of ammunition into the crowds.

Imagine the intensity of the fear it takes to push a government to fire on its own people when the entire world is watching. Beijing is worried, but Beijing will also not hesitate to use any force it deems necessary to tighten its grip on Hong Kong.

Now, here in the Senate, we are working on a few pieces of legislation to let the Chinese and the Hong Kong Governments know that the United States is watching. We have included a bill that will prevent U.S. companies from exporting crowd control supplies to the Hong Kong Police Force. It is important, though, for everyone to understand that the motivating factors behind political oppression have nothing to do with tear gas or with stun guns. There is only so much that legislation can do.

Governments in Iraq, Vietnam, Algeria, and Lebanon are also hard at work in doing whatever they can to prevent their citizens from stepping out of line, because they know what will happen if their citizens are free to criticize the state, and they are terrified of losing power.

This month, the entire world looks toward Central Europe to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall. When East Berliners first stepped into the western half of their city, they revealed to the rest of the world the horrors of living under a political regime that sustained itself by consuming the autonomy of its subjects. History serves as an enduring warning against the dangers of the all-powerful state.

As we watch mass protests play out a half a world away, many Americans still see social chaos not as a symptom of a disease but as a spontaneous expression of some nebulous desire to be free. They don't stop to recall what sparked the first feelings of unease long before the Molotov cocktails started flying through the air.

This is why, here in the United States, my colleagues in the majority have forced many conversations on the perils of degrading the foundations of our Republic. We have debated ad nauseam the Constitution's place in civil and legal discourse, asking: Does it provide a workable standard or is it just an outdated piece of paper now rendered illegitimate by the male whiteness of its drafters? I think the Presiding Officer knows my response.

We defend the Constitution and the system of government it created because we know, from studying history and from observing current events, that freedom does not suddenly expire. Freedom begins to wither the moment those in power convince themselves that a reprieve from uncomfortable policy debates over speech, self-defense, or the size of government will be worth the risk of shelving the standards that protect individual liberty.

The current blase tolerance and, in some cases, incomprehensible enthusiasm for socialism and other authoritarian philosophies is sending a strong message to the rest of the world that the standard for global freedom is up for debate. If we acquiesce to the argument that America's founding principles have passed their expiration date, we will have failed as a people and as a world leader. That failure will change the course of our history, and it will be used as a weapon to quash dissent elsewhere in the world.


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