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Anatomy of a Banana Republic

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool

My mother was the last person to see her father alive as he was being hauled away by the Vietminh, the precursor to the Viet Cong. How could a Magistrate be ripped away from his family in the middle of the night by thugs? When we escaped Vietnam right before the fall of Saigon, there were so many unknowns. However, there was one certainty: they don’t haul off innocent citizens in the United States on unfounded accusations. That is how authoritarian regimes conduct business, but not the United States, right?


After only several months in the United States, we moved to Africa, where my father worked as an American contractor for USAID in developing third-world countries. During that part of my childhood, I saw firsthand what leaders would do to silence those who disagreed with them.

Our escape from Vietnam, life in Africa, and our eventual return to the U.S. spurred me on to a life of service. I deployed in combat to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia, serving alongside Special Forces and SEAL Teams. Throughout various stages of my life, I have seen my share of death and destruction at the hands of political leaders across the world, and I can tell you from my own personal experience: no money in the world can save you from the grips of authoritarian rule.

Look at China, for instance, where President Xi Jinping and the CCP have complete control over private business. If a business owner or CEO dares to speak ill of the President or the ruling party, they vanish. They rarely return again to the public eye unless, of course, their time in a re-education camp works, and they prophesize the greatness of the communist country. Just ask Jack Ma, the CEO of Alibaba, who disappeared, only to reappear when he finally came to his senses. He is lucky compared to Xiao Jianhua, the richest man in China, when he disappeared in 2017. Disappearances are not uncommon in China.


In other dictatorships like North Korea and Russia, the acts of oppression might differ, but the playbook is the same- speak out of turn with the ruling class and risk your life.

Nothing will stand in the way of these leaders from maintaining their power and pushing their political ideology onto others. We cannot let this happen in America. The indictment of President Trump should concern everyone, regardless of your political views. The actions of this Manhattan District Attorney could lead us down a path of no return, where jailing those we disagree with becomes normalized. We must consider what this will means for our country and the slippery slope it will lead us down.

At a time when divisiveness has shaken our collective American confidence, never forget that political rhetoric is cyclical, but the American spirit is woven into the fabric of who we are as a people.

We are better than this.

I believe in our country and its people. I know our best days are ahead of us. Our nation's enemies relish seeing us divided and at odds with one another. Instead, we must unite to safeguard our freedoms and preserve our way of life. Only by standing together can we effectively defend ourselves against those who seek to extinguish the flame of freedom and liberty that burns within us. That is the America I fought for. That is the America I have bled for. That is the America I will pass on to my children.


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