I left one of the last colonies of the British Empire in January of 1994. As I said goodbye to my parents, my girlfriend, and highschool classmates, I embarked on the longest journey of my life. I held my tears all the way until the door was closed on the plane. There, in the middle seat of a packed jumbo jet, tears dripped through my face. I was heading to the land of the free, by myself.

When the clock struck midnight on July 1st, 1997, I have already graduated from college, married, and joined the US workforce. Ten years later, I swore my allegiance to the Union. A corner was cut from my British passport.

I love celebrating the 4th of July. I always make sure we would go to a nearby park early to get a nice seat for the fireworks. For many years, my wife and I would ditch our friends because they did not want to wait for a long time. I want to enjoy the music along with the fireworks. When “America the Beautiful” was played toward the climax of the fireworks, my heart would pond. I felt grateful for a free and fair America.

This year though, we are not going out. As I talked to friends recently, many felt the country is in trouble. Because of the pandemic, because of racial injustice, many felt depressed.

I have a different perspective. Last year, I spent a lot of time in Hong Kong. I witnessed first hand how my beloved city is being suffocated. Last year, a protest broke out because of the new extradition law. Protesting is no big deal in Hong Kong. People in Hong Kong have always had the right to assemble and to protest. What’s changed is the heavy-handed handling by the government. Peaceful protests turned into violence as the government escalated their response. The escalation entered a new phase just a few days ago as the Chinese government passed a law that sits above the entire legal system of Hong Kong. This law even applies to you. It applies to anyone, anywhere in the world.

As many of us sit at home this Independence day, please remember that no matter how bad it may feel, we are still extremely privileged. Maybe you felt people who don’t wear masks in public are putting the country at risk. Maybe you felt people who don’t want to open up schools in the fall are putting children’s growth at risk. Just know that being able to disagree is oddly enough a privilege. Many of my childhood friends just lost their right to disagree.

We are having BBQ tonight. We will be playing “America the Beautiful” tonight.

Happy 4th.